10:00 Monday 28 October 2013

Are you eating too much sugar each day?

Written byHeart Research UK

Do you enjoy a daily coffee fix, perhaps a sneaky chocolate bar or a birthday cake a colleague has brought into the office? These always taste nice, but are you aware of hidden sugars in every day foods?

We may have all over done it a little during any Halloween celebrations we've had but did you know that sugar is naturally found in many foods, like fruit and milk, but it’s also added during processing, along with artificial sweeteners. Even so-called ‘health foods’ may contain a lot of hidden sugar, like cereal bars, breads, low-fat products, yoghurt and tinned beans.

Strawberry smoothieOn average, the recommended sugar intake for men is approximately 70g per day and 50g for women. A recent report took a close look at products from popular café’s and supermarkets highlighting some sugar mountains. An example of a large fruit drink from a high street café contained 97g of sugar. That’s equivalent to 24 teaspoons of sugar and almost double the daily intake for women!

Eating too much sugar can add to an increased risk of heart disease. This is because if the excess calories are not used up from physical activity, sugar can then be stored as fat leading to an expanding waistline and more intra-abdominal fat. This weight gain can increase the risk of diabetes by affecting the hormone insulin, making it difficult for your body to become efficient at regulating blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled high glucose levels in the blood results in damaged arteries leading to heart disease.

If you have a sweet tooth, you may find it difficult to cut down on sugary foods. Slowly weaning yourself off these foods can be more effective than going cold turkey. Added sugars, such as those found in confectionary sweets, cakes and fizzy drinks should not make up more than 10% of your total calorie intake each day. Here are some tips for taming that sweet tooth:

  • Always read the nutritional labels. Those products that are described as ‘reduced fat’ often have more sugar to compensate for the taste. Look out for the traffic light colour coding. For sugar, fat and salt - avoid red and go for green if possible.

  • Check nutritional data in café’s or restaurants to ensure your favourite latte or muffin isn’t a sugar monster.  

  • Watch the portion size. This doesn’t mean you have to completely miss out on that delicious fudge cake as a treat, just go for a smaller piece and factor it into your daily intake.

  • Make sure little ones don’t become trapped into eating and drinking too many sweet things. Water and diluted fruit juice are preferable to fizzy drinks, for all ages.

  • If you like to have sugar in hot drinks or add it to cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.

  • Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, rather than those coated with sugar or honey.

You may find that once you have cut down on added sugars, your taste buds will soon adjust to lower sugar intake and you’ll find yourself more ‘sweet sensitive’. This will make it easier to avoid them and help your waistline.

So, when it comes to satisfying that sweet craving, be cautious, read the labels and have your indulgencies only in small, delicious chunks.  

For more information and advice about healthy living, contact Heart Research UK via email lifestyle@heartresearch.org.uk.

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