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Why you should watch your sugar intake

Jasmine
May 16, 2024

Consuming too much sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.

What is sugar?

Sugar is essentially a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in a wide range of nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy. It is often added during food processing to enhance flavors or act as a preservative. Added sugars are largely empty calories that provide little to no nutrients and should be consumed in moderation.

How much sugar should we consume?

Our sugar consumption should be no more than 10 percent of our daily energy intake. For most adults, that is about 10 teaspoons (50g) of sugar based on a 2000-daily calorie intake. For those who would like to reap additional health benefits such as a decrease in weight, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a further reduction to 5 teaspoons (25g) of sugar a day.

Dangers of excessive sugar intake

Blood sugar level spike and give a feel-good ‘high’. After this, a ‘sugar crash’ takes over, making us feel tired. Lastly, we crave for sugary foods to feel the ‘high’ again.

Furthermore, our body converts any excess sugar that we eat into fat, storing it as a future fuel source. By eating large amounts of sugary foods, we place ourselves at risk of various health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Consuming less sugar

Spotting hidden sugar

Sugar comes in many forms, with names that do not actually include the word “sugar”. They include fructose, corn syrup, sucrose, maltose, and many more.

Just like consuming sugar, having all these added extra calories in our diet can harm our health. Learn to spot different kinds of added sugars on food labels to help cut down on our sugar intake.

Sugar myths

Some added sugars are marketed as healthier options but are actually no different from simple white sugar. While brown sugar does contain additional minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron, nutritional benefits are miniscule.

How can we consume less sugar?

Read the labels

A single can of sugar-sweetened soda can contain as much as 7 teaspoons (35g) of added sugar (140 kcal). Check the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) to find out the sugar content in our beverages.

Limit your intake of Nutri-Grade C or D drinks. Look out for products with the Healthier Choice Symbol as these are at least 25% lower in sugar than similar products within the same category. Or choose Nutri-Grade A or B drinks that are lower in sugar and saturated fat.

Make water the default drink option

Choose water as our beverage of choice. Water is needed for essential bodily functions and the excretion of waste, and forms up to 60% of the human body.

Replace fluid losses and keep our body functioning well by drinking water. This can be made even more enjoyable by infusing water with fresh fruit and herbs for great taste and a dose of vitamins!

Ask for “less sugar” or “no sugar” when ordering freshly-prepared beverages or desserts

Choose water as our beverage of choice. Water is needed for essential bodily functions and the excretion of waste, and forms up to 60% of the human body.

Replace fluid losses and keep our body functioning well by drinking water. This can be made even more enjoyable by infusing water with fresh fruit and herbs for great taste and a dose of vitamins!

Portion control

There are certain sweet drinks, snacks or desserts that we may find irresistible and tend to overindulge. Rather than depriving ourselves completely, we can portion control by:

  • Choosing a smaller pack size (e.g. 250ml instead of a 500ml bottle)
  • Using a smaller plate – it tricks us into thinking that we are enjoying more food than what is really on our plate
  • Sharing with friends and family
  • Enjoying such sweet treats in moderation or making it an occasional treat

Replace sugar with alternatives/substitutes in our home cooked meals

We use sugar in our home-cooked meals; whether it’s baking or stir-frying, sugar is added to our food as a way to enhance the flavours of our dishes.

Instead, use fresh, chopped, pureed fruit and vegetables to give our desserts flavour and a fibre boost.

We can also try sweeteners like stevia or xylitol that contain fewer to no calories, and won’t cause a spike to our blood glucose levels. Try to gradually adjust and decrease the amount of sweetners we use. Train our palate and learn to enjoy the natural flavours in food.

Watch out for the sugar trap

Watching our sugar intake may not be easy when some sugar traps are hard to detect. Seemingly savoury foods could contain more added sugar than what we expect.

Reference: HealthHub

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Sugar intake
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