HEALTHY EATING: EAT LESS SUGAR

Why you should eat less sugar

Sugar has a vastly over-rated reputation as a foodstuff. Whenever small villages get cut off by snow or floods sugar is usually one of the allegedly ‘staple’ ingredients airlifted in by relief organisations. But sugar is a pretty useless food. It is rich in calories and will give you a quick fix if you are feeling hungry. But apart from energy you won’t get much else from sugar. It is true that some types of sugar—for example blackstrap mollases—contain a few vitamins and minerals. But these ingredients aren’t present in any appreciable quantities and apart from honey there isn’t very much nutritional advantage to be gained by eating these types of sug^r to the refined white or brown varieties which are most commonly sold. By and large sugar is sug?Ir and it isn’t much good for you. Most of us eat far too much of it.

It is important to realise that you won’t necessarily cut down your intake of sugar simply by avoiding sweets, by not putting sugar in your tea or coffee and by using less sugar in cooking.

It is customary these days for many food manufacturers to use sugar in a whole host of unlikely ways. For example, sugar is likely to be added to tinned soup (allegedly to ‘bring out the flavour’ and to ‘improve the texture’ though you have to wonder at the quality of the soup which needs such artificial help); to tomato sauce (to make it ‘smoother’, though I’m not sure who decided that ‘smooth* sauce was inevitably better than ‘unsmoothed’ sauce); to

Biscuits (apparently to make them ‘crumblier’ and ‘crunchier’, though I don’t know about you but I don’t particularly want my biscuits to crumble all over the place) and even to tinned meat to make it ‘soft’ (though I can’t imagine anyone interested in healthy eating being prepared even to contemplate buying tinned meat).

The ubiquitous nature of sugar in refined and prepackaged foods and its image as a useful, even essential, foodstuff (and the image of it as being a rather harmless substance) means that on average we each eat around 100 lbs (45kg) of sugar every year. There is no doubt that many people eat their own weight in sugar every twelve months!

Despite its image, however, sugar can be—and often is— extremely bad for you. The consumption of too much sugar frequently leads to obesity and all the problems associated with overweight. Sugar causes tooth decay and is now strongly associated with cancers of the breast and intestine.

Three ways in which eating less sugar will improve your health

By reducing your intake of sugar you will reduce your risk of developing cancer—particularly cancers of the breast, colon and rectum.

Eating less sugar will mean that you suffer less tooth decay.

Keeping your sugar intake down will help you to control your weight. There is no doubt that a high sugar intake results in obesity and, therefore, an increased risk of heart disease and other potentially lethal conditions.

Twelve easy ways to eat less sugar 1 Eat more natural foods—and fewer prepackaged foods. Some foods (such as fruit) do contain natural sugars but these will be mixed with lots of fibre and will be far less likely to do you harm. If you buy tinned fruits try to select the products which are packed in their own juices rather than in a sugar rich syrup.

Make an effort to reduce the amount of sugar you use in drinks such as tea or coffee. If you can’t cope with hot drinks unless they are sweetened try using one of the many, available artificial sweeteners. As an alternative try reducing the number of cups of tea or coffee that you drink or change to other types of hot drink (for example: tea with lemon or peppermint tea) which do not need sweetening.

Don’t buy sugar rich soft drinks. Instead choose low calorie drinks or mineral water.

To make sure that your baby doesn’t develop a ‘sweet tooth’ don’t add sugar to milk when preparing a feed and don’t buy baby foods which contain added sugar.

When buying fruit juices look for the natural variety rather than the ones which have added, extra sugar.

Buy jams and marmalades which contain less sugar than usual and when baking experiment by using slightly less sugar than recipes recommend.

When cooking try using spices or fruits to sweeten foods— instead of adding an enormous amount of sugar.

Instead of buying sweets and chocolates to nibble in between meals or during the evening, choose dried fruits and nuts instead.

When buying biscuits choose wholemeal ones which contain relatively little sugar and eschew biscuits which are filled with cream or covered with chocolate.

Don’t buy sweetened yoghurts. Instead buy natural, unsweetened yoghurt and to add taste and flavour add your own fruit.

If you are spreading jam or marmalade on bread do it thinly to reduce your sugar intake.

Choose fresh fruit or another alternative instead of a sugar rich pudding which is probably also rich in fat. (Remember this when eating out).

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