Fructose, glucose, caramel, treacle… It can be hard to avoid eating and drinking too much sugar, especially when it’s called so many different names! If you’re trying to stick to a healthier diet, it’s not always easy knowing which foods contain the added or ‘free’ sugars we’re told to limit in our diets.
The UK recommends only 5% of an adult’s daily calorie intake should consist of these sugars, equal to around seven sugar cubes (30g). This soon adds up when you consider added sugars exist in biscuits, buns, jams and so on. But it’s not just the obvious ones, sugar is found in fruit juices, savoury ready-meals, honey and cereals for example.
Even low-fat and diet foods can contain extra sugar, they help to improve taste. And whether we have a sweet tooth or not, sugary food is often consumed at times of celebration or for comfort and even reward. From a slice of cake and a glass of champagne at a party to a hot bowl of soup in winter, it’s very easy to exceed our daily recommended intake.
Scientifically, sugar makes us feel good because it releases the chemical, dopamine, in the brain. This gives us a ‘high’ so, it’s easy to understand why we’ll crave these foods, and are liable to eat and drink them to excess. If you’re exercising regularly or live an active lifestyle it’s fine mostly, you’ll burn the excess calories.
If not, the added sugar turns to unwanted fat and it soon impacts negatively on our health. There are many illnesses linked to consuming too much added sugar, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But again, sweet tooth or not, it’s hard to avoid what are sometimes called hidden sugars.
A hot spiced pumpkin latte with cinnamon
There are certain things you can do to minimise your intake though. Among the many ingredients listed on a product label, anything ending in ‘ose’ normally indicates the presence of sugar.
There are a few other things you can try if you want to reduce your sugar intake:
- Find substitute products. For example, why not replace the sugar in your hot drink with cinnamon? It might take a little getting used to initially but, it not only provides sweetness, it also has health benefits.
- Go brown! Whether it’s pasta, rice or bread, wholemeal varieties of these foods will give you the energy you need without the added calories.
- Go for smaller portions rather than using substitutes such as sweeteners in drinks or even the latest diet fad. Adding snacks such as nuts, fresh fruit or plain yoghurts will help stop the hunger cravings and nurture a healthier diet.
- Other foods that will slow the cravings are carbs which provide lean protein, such as fish, chicken and turkey.
- Swap one of your hot drinks or sugary soft drinks for herbal tea or simply water. Good for the health and the skin. Limit those drinks you know contain added sugar, including alcoholic and fizzy drinks and maybe save them for special occasions.
- Try alternative recipes, the internet can be a wonderful and useful source of information and ideas. You can try using spices instead of sugar when baking or adding sliced fresh fruit instead when making your porridge.
- Beware that even the natural sugar found in fruit, which is good for us, may contain increased sugar than what we’re used to. Apples, such as Pink Lady and Jazz, are examples of fruit bred specifically for our love of sweet food!
There’s no need to fear though. Simply incorporating some of the above tips into your daily routine can help to reduce your sugar intake and lead to better health. Getting to know your sugars - natural, added, free etc - will also be very useful.
The British Heart Foundation have compiled a substantial list of the different names used for sugar on an ingredient’s list or label. You’ll find a link to the website article below. The NHS website also has relevant information, including recipes and tips, providing official guidance. The link below will take you there and further help you to eat and drink well.
And don’t forget, if you’re still struggling to reduce your sugar intake, it might simply be because it tends to make us happy! Carbon Retreat offers mindfulness therapies which can help you understand your behaviours, then control them.
Among our upcoming retreats, Chris Hill’s, Beat My Addiction, and Prash K’s, Transformation and Wellness Weekend Retreats, address this subject specifically. Full details for these events are available in our Wellbeing Section.
Sources and useful information (these links go to external websites and we have no control over their content):
British Heart Foundation - Different names for sugars.
NHS - Eat well guide.
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