Sugar is not bad for health. However, the excessive intake of free sugars, could primarily lead to overweight, obesity and tooth decays. Ultimately, high sugar intake could be responsible of the onset of diabetes, heart diseases, cancers and non-alcoholic liver disease. Nowadays, processed food hides most of the sugar one consumes as one often does not realize the sweetness in the food which is masked by other compounds. For instance, one tablespoon of ketchup has the equivalent of one teaspoon of free sugars.
What are free sugars?
Free sugars are of two categories:
- Added to food and drinks
- Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose
- Disaccharides: sucrose or table sugar
- Free sugars naturally occurring in food and drinks
- Sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, fruit juice concentrate, smoothies and vegetable juices
! The second category does not include sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables.
How to recognize free sugars on food labels?
Free sugars could take several names on food labels. Examples of that are:
- cane sugar;
- brown sugar;
- corn sweetener;
- corn syrup;
- high-fructose corn syrup;
- nectars (blossoms);
- fruit juice concentrates/purees;
- invert sugar;
- malt sugar;
- maple and agave syrup;
- sugar ending in "ose" (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, crystalline sucrose).
How much free sugars is ok?
The global recommendations suggest bringing the free sugar intake to less than 10% of the daily energy intake for adults and children. This is equivalent to about 7-9 teaspoons per day for an adult and less than 6 teaspoons for children.
How to avoid eating too much sugar
- Sugar reduction could be achieved through:
- Avoiding adding sugar to food and particularly drinks (coffee, tea..)
- Not exceeding 150ml daily of unsweetened juices and smoothies
- Checking the amount of sugar in processed food and balancing sugar consumption accordingly
- A decreased fat (especially saturated fat) intake helps to maintain a healthy body weight.
The global recommendation for healthy adults is to not exceed 10 % of free sugar intake of the total energy needed per day. Less than 5% is even better for health!