BY ASHLEIGH FELTHAM
With two out of three Australian adults now classified as overweight (BMI equal or above 25) or obese (BMI 30 over above), the World Cancer Research Fund has introduced new guidelines on recommended sugar intake.
Without knowledge of what types of sugar should be limited, this information could lead many to cut out essential foods which contain sugar but also contain nutrients that are important for the health and functioning of the body.
The World Cancer Research Fund has published recommendations for adults and children to limit free sugar. Free sugar is sugar that is added to products and it also includes sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. Free sugar does NOT include sugars naturally found in food or naturally occurring in milk products or milk.
It is recommended to limit free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total daily energy, kilojoules or calories. This is equal to 12.5 teaspoons of sugar for a 2000-calorie or 8364-kilojoule diet. For optimal health, it is recommended to consume no more than five per cent of your total daily energy (approximately six teaspoons) from added sugar. So a 500ml Coke, containing the equivalent of 13 teaspoons of sugar, would blow the sugar allowance completely – in just one can!
However, before you go and cut every type of sugar from your diet, remember sugar alone is not the enemy, it is the sugar added or within food or drinks which has little to no nutritional value. The body needs foods and drinks that contain sugar for health. Fruit, for example, contains fructose, a type of sugar but also contains many essential vitamins and minerals for optimal function of the body. This is why the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat two servings of fruit a day. The type of sugar which should be limited is the fruit juice and concentrates which, for a large percentage, have added sugar.
Lactose is another example of an important sugar found in dairy foods. This sugar is linked to foods and drinks which contain calcium, a vital nutrient for health. Without adequate calcium, the bones in our body become weak and our heart can be affected. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend low- to no-added sugar sources of milk and milk products for people over the age of two years. It is recommended girls between 13-18 years have 3.5 servings of calcium a day, women aged 18-50 years have 2.5 servings a day and women over the age of 51 increase this to four servings a day. A serving can be 200ml milk, 200g yoghurt, two 40g (or matchbox size) of cheddar cheese or half a cup of ricotta cheese.
When deciding what to buy at the supermarket, look for products which contain no more than 15g of sugar per 100g. You can find this on the far right column of most food labels. The key is to take the time to look what is in the food and to check if sugar is high on the ingredients list or not. Ingredients are listed in ranking from the highest to the lowest in amount. Other names for sugar can be dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, raw sugar and sucrose.
So remember, sugar is not the enemy! Whole foods like fruits, vegetables and milk and milk products are important for health. They help us to be active and live with quality of life.
Ashleigh Feltham holds a Bachelor of Human Nutrition, is a qualified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and has been working in the fitness industry for ten years. Ashleigh was an elite gymnast as well as an elite rock climber, where she represented Australia for four years. Ashleigh is in the final semester of a Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics and will soon be an Accredited Practicing Dietician. Ashleigh is passionate about helping others achieve their highest quality of life possible through exercise, mental health and nutrition. Ashleigh believes everyone deserves to live a life of health and wellness.