The Great Sugar Debate

Posted by iChild, March 22, 2017 10:49 AM

By Claudi & Fin

Sugar! It's the latest in a long line of foods we should all be trying to avoid. We know it’s bad for us, but how much is too much and what impact is it having on our family’s health?

Let’s start with the stats. The government recommends children eat no more than an average of 21g of sugar per day (that’s about five to six sugar cubes to us) but the average British child consumes three times this amount. Sugar is everywhere; in bread, fizzy drinks, cereals and other processed foods and some of our kids are eating so much of the stuff that one third of 10-11 year olds in the UK is now obese. The obesity crisis now costs the NHS £5.1bn and there’s growing pressure from Public Health England for supermarkets and restaurants to cut sugar by up to 50%.

Sugar_heading-and-sweets

 

Which foods should I be wary of?

An obvious place to start is with foods which we all know contain sugar - desserts, ice creams, etc. We all love a treat and we love to treat our children but many of us don’t know just how much sugar is lurking in our favourite puddings.

Let’s talk lollies. After all, it’s a subject close to our heart! Your average supermarket ice lolly contains 19g of sugar per 100g which equates to three teaspoons - about half your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of sugar if you're an adult and almost all of it if you’re a child. The really indulgent ice creams are much higher, peaking at 31 grams of sugar and, believe it or not, these are the ones that are often specifically aimed at children! Scary stuff.

Try swapping out your favourite choc ice with one of the growing number of healthier alternatives available in the supermarkets. Now obviously we’re biased, but Claudi & Fin Greek style frozen yoghurt lollies really are a great choice - we made them for our own kids, Claudia and Fin, when we couldn’t find any lollies in the shops that weren’t packed with sugar or ingredients with complicated sounding names. They contain just 6.4g of sugar (one teaspoonful) a pop, which is 38% less than the 'average' supermarket lolly. They’re also packed with real fruit, made from 100% natural ingredients and enriched with vitamin D for healthy bones. If you opt for our mini range instead, the sugar content is even lower at only 3.8 grams - a miniscule half a teaspoonful of sugar per lolly. For a desert this is definitely a healthier lolly choice!

Foods with hidden sugar in them

What’s really dangerous about sugar is that it lurks in the most unlikely of foods, so more often than not you’re completely unaware that you’re consuming it.  

According to Public Health England "Children and young people consume three times the recommended amount of sugar on average, with adults consuming more than double. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recently recommended that sugar makes up no more than 5% of daily calorie intake: 30g or seven cubes of sugar per day."

So let’s have a look at some food items that you may not think have much, if any, sugar in them.

Take baked beans, a savoury product that’s graced the table of pretty much every household in the nation. What you might not know, as you’re sitting down to your favourite tomatoey snack on toast, is that one tin of beans contains over 20g of sugar! That equates to five teaspoonfuls which is pretty much your RDA for the day.

Then there’s white bread. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ you might ask, but one slice can contain as much as half a teaspoonful of sugar. That doesn’t seem like a crazy amount compared to the beans, but considering you probably weren’t expecting to eat any sugar at all, it’s easy to see how it all starts mounting up.  If you like a couple of rounds of toast in the morning with jam, before you know it, you’ve eaten two teaspoonfuls of sugar and it’s not even 9 a.m.!

And what about drinks? Take a children’s real favourite, blackcurrant squash. Most of us are happy to give our kids these drinks because they’re full of vitamin C but when you look at the sugar content it might be time to think again. Just one carton of the UK’s top selling brand contains 6.7 teaspoonfuls of sugar, that’s the same as eating seven cookies!

So what actually happens to our bodies when we eat too much sugar and why is it so bad for us?

Sugars

Eating too much sugar can cause all manner of serious health problems. Here are some of the damaging effects:

  • Liver Damage: Too much sugar can cause the liver go into overdrive as it tries to process all that excess, causing liver inflammation and scarring, and eventually liver failure.
  • Insulin resistance: This is the stage before you develop Diabetes. Symptoms include fatigue, hunger, brain fog and high blood pressure – which ultimately puts you at risk of heart failure.
  • Diabetes: Although sugar is not the definitive cause, it certainly plays a prominent role in diabetes. Eating too much can cause weight gain, which in turn can increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Leptin resistance:- the reason we know when we are full is down to a hormone called Leptin. Studies have found that a high intake of sugar can cause you leptin resistance. Without this hormone you will just keep eating.
  • Obesity: As stated by Action For Sugar ‘Excessive unhealthy food and sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption has been linked to weight gain, as it provides a major and unnecessary source of calories with little or no nutritional value’.
  • Heart disease: Is the number one cause of death in the United States . Excessive consumption of sugar causes weight gain, this combined with sustained high insulin levels, can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes - which causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

These are of course extreme examples, but more and more people are developing health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption.

Now we’re not saying you have to cut out sugar altogether, (I know we certainly couldn’t do that!) but it’s something almost all of us need to be more aware of. At the end of the day it comes down to us and what we choose to eat and feed our children, so here are a few tips on navigating the sugar minefield so you and your family can make the best choices possible.

Tips on how you can reduce your sugar intake for your family

  1. Avoid processed food as much as possible. If you haven’t cooked it yourself you don’t know what’s in it. Chances are if it’s off the shelf, it has sugar in it. We know this is not always possible, so if you are in a rush, opt for Ella’s Kitchen or Little Dish which are made with natural ingredients and no added sugar.
  2. Check labels and learn the names of sugar aliases. Don’t be fooled into thinking products sweetened with honey or agave syrup are better for you. Although these sweeteners may have other health benefits, as far as our bodies are concerned any processed sugar is still sugar, whether it’s fructose, glucose or plain old sucrose. To be sure you know what you’re getting, check the nutritional label on the back and bear in mind that four grams of white sugar (granulated) is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. Also note that the sugars listed on nutritional labels include naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit and milk) as well as those added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars.
  3. Choose unsweetened or no added sugar products. Bear Nibbles are a great substitute for your typical sweets and are 100% natural with none of the nonsense!
  4. Choose foods with a low sugar content. You will need to check the nutritional label on the back. Claudi and Fin are a great low sugar snack for children.
  5. Have smaller portions. Fruit juices and smoothies can count towards your five a day, however, they can be very high in sugar so be sure to have no more than 150ml per day.  

Juggling work and looking after the kids can mean it’s nigh impossible to avoid processed, sugary foods altogether but like everything, it’s all about balance. Just by becoming more aware of where sugar lurks can really help you to reduce your intake. Saving your sugar intake for the occasional sweet treats we all love will really help point you in the right direction - don’t blow your daily allowance on toast and cereal for breakfast!

By Claudi & Fin

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