Are you having too much sugar in your diet?

By Bob Fear

Are you having too much sugar in your diet?

Most of us eat more sugar than we should do, according to evidence from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, and now The World Health Organization states that our recommended added sugar limit needs to be halved.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition suggests that no more than 5% of our daily calories should come from added sugar, with The WHO agreeing that this should be our target. 

The current recommendation is 11%, so if it's halved that means our daily limit for added sugar would be about 25g. That means that (if one teaspoon = 4g) we should only be consuming around six teaspoons for an average adult - depending on how active you are. If we halve that amount for toddlers it's about three and-a-half teaspoons of added sugar a day.

infographic: how much added sugar are we consuming?

Ill-effects on health

Gobbling loads of food and drink with added sugar might make us put on weight if we don't exercise enough and that can lead to heart disease and diabetes while also rotting our teeth. 

We all seem to be well aware that too much sugar isn't much good for us, but our appetite for the sweet stuff means that we still indulge. And due to added sugar, we may also be downing much more sugar than we realise.

Public Health England said fruit drinks were fuelling tooth decay in toddlers, while campaigners from Action on Sugar called for fruit juice to be banished from our recommended five-a-day. 

When did you last check exactly how much was added to that fizzy drink or fruit juice? 

Everything manufactured for us, from biscuits and cakes to ready meals and sauces, potentially has loads of sugar added. Soft drinks are an obvious culprit while it might surprise some people how much sugar is in seemingly healthy manufactured fruit juices and smoothies.

Implementation of the 'Sugar Tax'

Science boffins are even arguing now that excess sugar in our diets could be worse for us than excess salt. This lead the government to bring in the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, also known as the 'Sugar Tax'. 

Beverage manufacturers are taxed according to the volume of sugar-sweetened beverages they produce or import and the tax is imposed in two bands:

  • Drinks with total sugar content above 5g per 100 millilitres are taxed at 18p per litre.
  • Drinks above 8g per 100 millilitres at 24p per litre.

Drinks such as pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks, as well as smaller producers, would not be included in the tax.

Rather than negatively impacting performance, the tax seemed to help boost sales, according to Britvic’s 2018 Soft Drinks Review.

So how do we stop ourselves sliding down the syrupy slope towards toothless obesity...

  1. Most added sugars come from sugary drinks — so cutting out sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc. can help to significantly cut your sugar intake.
  2. Avoid over indulging on desserts, as they don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value and are loaded with sugar, which causes blood sugar spikes that can leave you feeling tired and hungry and make you crave more sugar.
  3. You might not be aware, but sauces like ketchup, barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, and sweet chili sauce are packed full of extra sugar, so cutting down on them can have a huge impact.
  4. Some processed 'low fat' snack foods that market themselves as “healthy” are not as good as they may seem at first glance as they're usually packed full of sugar.
  5. A high in protein and fibre may will reduce hunger and promote a feeling of fullness, helping you to avoid reaching for the sugary snacks.
  6. A lack of sleep may impact the types of food you eat, predisposing you to choose high-sugar snacks to get an energy boost.

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