Fructose seems to be the latest sugar getting caned in the media. The debate about quitting sugar is clearly still raw but do we really need to eliminate it and what are the benefits if we do?
Sugar is a type carbohydrate and comes in many forms. Sucrose is your simple table sugar made up of both glucose and fructose. Glucose is the primary source of energy your body uses and every cell relies on it to function. When we eat carbohydrate our body breaks it down into glucose. It is also found naturally in some fruits and in confectionary and sports drinks.
Lactose is the sugar found in most dairy products. It’s also found in dried vegetables and chocolate. Lactase breaks down lactose in our body which increases our ability to absorb calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Fructose is probably the sugar you’ve heard the most about recently. It’s found naturally in fruit, vegetables, syrups and honey. Like other sugars it’s also found in processed foods such as biscuits, cakes, chocolate, lollies as well as soft and sports drinks.
So, why has sugar’s reputation soured? Recently, the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that we are in fact consuming far too much sugar. In addition to this numerous books have appeared on our bookshelves making us believe that our weight gain and poor health must be blamed on sugar.
Data has shown that it is actually the type of sugar that we are consuming that is the main issue. Processed foods such as cakes, lollies and soft drinks are consumed in our country in huge amounts. Males and teenagers are the ones consuming the most sugar.
So, there’s no doubt that we are consuming too much sugar but is it something that we should completely remove? The answer is no. Many studies are misrepresented in books and produced by authors that are often not qualified to be offering nutrition advice. They are also often trying to apply their own personal medical history to a general population.
Sugar is a naturally occurring substance that we have been eating for centuries without medical problems. In it’s natural state it’s sources also have other beneficial nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. The problem is that from the moment we learnt to extract sugar and put it into processed foods nutritional benefits were lost and over consumption became a problem.
The key to sugar consumption is making it part of a healthy diet. Trying to completely eliminate sugar is unnecessary and creates an unhealthy relationship with food. It can result in us craving the sweet stuff and removes one of life’s greatest pleasures.
How much sugar should Zappers eat? Around ten percent of your kilojoules can come from sugar without any problems. For an average person who exercises this would amount to about 15 teaspoons of sugar per day. A single teaspoon of sugar is around 4 grams so check your food labels.
The easy way to cut back on sugar is not to avoid fruit and vegetables and dairy. Save your treats such as chocolate, lollies, cakes and ice creams for occasional consumption. Snack on fresh fruit, cheese or crackers instead of muffins or sweet biscuits.
Drink water instead of cordial, juice, soft drinks, energy or sports drinks. Try not to reward yourself with sweets and remember that changing your sweet tooth will take time. If you’re craving sugar it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep or that the rest of your diet is lacking in essential nutrients.
The anti-sugar brigade has scared many of us into trying to stop eating sugar altogether. The reason many of us feel better after attempting to do this is that we’ve removed many of the processed foods from our diet. Try simply reducing your sugar intake rather than putting yourself on another fad diet that is difficult to sustain.
Small amounts of sugar make our food taste good and adding brown sugar to porridge or putting jam on toast is only two teaspoons compared to the eight that would be in a can of soft drink or a chocolate bar. The key is to get your sugar balance right where you can enjoy an occasional treat alongside a healthy eating plan. For motivated Zappers, this should be a piece of cake.