Sugar is the umbrella term used for natural sugar, added sugar or sugar substitute. As with any food type, eaten in excess or as part of a diet that contributes to excess will lead to weight gain. As sugar is a calorie dense food with very little in it that makes you feel full, it is easy to over consume it. Furthermore, sugars are often added to our foods without us realising. Obesity and being overweight can be a precursor to several conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
So what are these sugars?
Let’s start with natural sugar: This is a form of sugar that is found in foods such as fruit which contains fructose, wheat which contains maltose, or beans which contain raffinose amongst many more. The sugar can take the form of simple or complex molecules and is often bound with proteins and fats.
Added sugars: Sugars that get added to food in manufacture in addition to ones naturally occurring. As a rule of thumb, they tend to be the type that are energy dense and nutrient poor i.e. ones that are made of small molecules and not bound to other types of nutrients. Examples include glucose, lactose, maltose, fructose, sucrose and other ingredients ending in ‘ose’
Sugar substitutes: This group of sugars include stevia, aspartame and sucralose and don’t have any calorific value. Studies have shown they can have an effect on gut bacteria and disturb metabolism.
Other substitutes like xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol are not as sweet and do have some calorific value but have been shown to have a negative effect on people who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome.
Moderating sugar intake in particular added sugars and sweeteners that come with very little additional calorific gain would be a sensible first step. Tips to reduce sugar consumption:
- READ INGREDIENT LABELS
- Try and save sports drinks for workouts of over 60mins only
- Swap out flavoured yogurts for plain ones (add fresh fruit instead)
- Swap sweetened canned fruit for natural syrup
- Save desserts for special occasions
- Sweeten food with mashed banana or apple sauce instead of sugar or syrup