A report published in 2013 indicates that sugar is as, if not more, desirable than addictive drugs such as cocaine. This research aims to prove that “sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs”.
Adults and children need to reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake, according to a statement released by the World Health Organisation. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25g (6 tsp) per day would provide additional health benefits.
So what is a safe recommended daily allowance for sugar?
Although we all lead different lifestyles and have varying metabolic requirements, the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition suggests the following:
- Children aged four to six should have no more than 19g (5 tsp) free sugar (sugar that is added to food and drink) per day.
- Children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g (6 tsp) free sugar per day.
- Children aged 11 and upwards, as well as adults, should have no more than 30g (7 tsp) free sugar per day.
To illustrate what this means, take a look at some of the popular beverages our children love, and their approximate sugar contents:
- 250ml iced tea = 19g (4 tsp) free sugar
- 250ml flavoured drinking yoghurt = 26.8 g (5½ tsp) free sugar
- 330ml cola = 35g (7 tsp) free sugar
- 330ml ginger beer = 37g (6½ tsp) free sugar.
Almost all modern convenience consumables contain free sugar, especially children’s favourites such as cereals, beverages, fast foods and treats.
So how do we reduce the excess sugars from our diets?
- Be aware. Always try to ensure that all consumables remain as close as possible to their natural state. If sweetening is required, look at healthier options such as fresh fruit or vegetables.
- Read labels carefully. Not all free or added sugars are labelled as sugars. For example, agave nectar, corn sweetener, dextrose, honey, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose and molasses.
- Limit sugar-added beverages, cited as being responsible for the majority of added sugar in US diets. Their syrups also comprise one third of the sugar compared to regular cooldrinks.
- Reduce your family’s sugar tolerance by slowly moderating sugar intake and bolstering their diets with wholefoods. Over time, consumables high in sugar will start tasting too sweet and you’ll avoid them.
- Bake instead of buying treats. Homemade treats can contain less added and highly synthetic sweeteners, and you have the ability to further reduce the sugar content with natural sweeteners like fruit or vegetables.