Now, I'm not here to tell you that sugar is the devil or that if you enjoy the occasional biscuit or chocolate bar then you're a bad person. What I will say is that as a society we're consuming more sugar than our bodies can cope with, much of which we're probably not even aware that we're eating and that, my friends, is the scary part.
Sugar occurs naturally in a whole host of foods including fruit, vegetables, milk and honey. However, it's also added to a huge number of processed foods that we eat on a daily basis and that's what I'm really focusing on in this post.
The WHO (World Health Organisation, not the old rockers) has suggested that for good health, we shouldn't be getting more than 5% of our total daily dietary energy from sugar, but according to Public Health England’s (PHE) 2015 report we're getting 12%-15% of our energy from it.
So, basically, we're eating a lot of sugar, what's the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that this excessive sugar intake is contributing to a whole host of health problems including:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- some cancers
- tooth decay
And all that sugar isn't just coming from what you might think are the obvious culprits - sweets and chocolate. No, a lot of that sugar is hidden in processed foods that you may not even think about e.g. salad dressings, ready made soups and sauces, bacon, breakfast bars, yoghurts. Oh and watch out for those 'low fat' items on the supermarket shelf, many of them have added sugar or artificial sweeteners added to make up for the fat removed - sneaky, right?
The next time you're in the supermarket, why don't you do a little test? It'll be fun (maybe)!
Check out the list of ingredients on some of the processed foods i.e. anything that's not fresh fruit, veggies, milk or unprocessed meats and see how many of them have sugar. Oh, and don't just look for the word 'sugar', there are a whole host of names for it! “Syrup”, “sweetener” any words ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be sugar.
Once you've identified the sugar, take a look-see at just how large a component it is in your food. Hint: the higher up it is in the ingredients list, the more sugar it contains.
For example, if a ready-made pasta sauce reads: Tomatoes, onions, sugar, garlic, then sugar is the third most prominent ingredient.
BACK AWAY FROM THAT PASTA SAUCE!
Don't worry, I won't be following you around the supermarket with a megaphone doing that, although...
Where you can, try to find substitutes for those with high sugar contents - there are almost always alternatives available even in the processed food aisle and (although I appreciate we're all busy people) cooking from scratch allows you to control exactly what goes into your stomach.
Like I said before, I'm not here to scaremonger or to make you feel bad for having a biscuit with your afternoon tea. I'm raising the issue as it's one that surprisingly few of the people I speak to on a daily basis are aware of, and I think it's something that we should all know more about. Forewarned is forearmed and all that and the more knowledge we have the better informed our decisions are.
With that in mind, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting if you want to learn more.
BBC Sugar Explained
The Sugar Conspiracy
All opinions are my own and this blog is intended for motivational and informational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting a training or nutrition program.