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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > September 2016 > THE TRUTH ABOUT SUGAR IN FOOD


When is sugar content a concern and when can we enjoy it without fearing for our health? We show you what to watch out for in typical meals


EXPERTS CONFIRMED last summer that we’re all eating way too much sugar. As a result, products such as ready-made sauces, pizzas, breads, cereals, drinks, soups and even salads have all been named and shamed for their sugar contents. But the scare stories can be misleading. What most reviews do is simply look at the total amount of sugar in products, rather than the type of sugar – or what else the product contains in the way of nutrients.


WHEN NEW recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition advised cutting the maximum amount of sugar in half from 10% of daily calories to just 5% (equal to about 30g or 7tsp sugar), they were talking about ‘free’ sugars. Basically the baddies, these include all added sugars, plus fruit juice, honey and any sugars found naturally in syrups or extracts such as maple syrup or agave nectar. The reason? Eating free sugars in large quantities is linked to obesity and dental decay and, when in the form of drinks, to type 2 diabetes.

The kind we don’t need to worry about are the ‘intrinsic’ sugars found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables. These come packaged with other valuable nutrients, and we don’t tend to overeat them because all those other nutrients help to fill us up. They’re not as harmful to teeth, either, and tend not to be overloaded with calories.


THE PROBLEM IS, while some foods obviously contain just free sugars (think chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks and biscuits), many of the foods and meals we eat contain a mixture of free and intrinsic sugars. For example, cereal with milk, a ready-made tomato sauce and a pot of yogurt all contain both types.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Give your lunchbox a makeover this month with our 35 ideas for healthy eating at work. We shine the spotlight on sugar and give you easy everyday ways to cut down, and explore the lesser-known eating disorder of binge eating. Plus, discover our nutrition guide to non-dairy milks and cook your way through Mary Berry's healthier Sunday lunch. All in September's Healthy Food Guide magazine.