Different types of sugar

7 Nov 2022

Reset Your Relationship with Sugar

When you consume unprocessed foods, your weight, appetite and general health all seem to take care of themselves. Consciously change your diet and you unconsciously change your health.​

Research shows that those who live longer all follow these principles:​

  • A no processed food culture – eating fresh​
  • Sitting at the table eating together​
  • Eating what is in season​
  • Eating treats occasionally, not daily.​

Many of us today consume far too much sugar, purely out of convenience. It’s so easy to consume processed or pre-packed food straight off the shelf at the supermarket. These foods contain high amounts of sugar, which then stores as fat, particularly around the abdomen where the organs are protected.

Over time, this increases our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Let’s reset our relationship with sugar. It’s important for us to maintain healthy, balanced glucose levels throughout the day, as opposed to a blood sugar rollercoaster that has us craving sugar every three hours.


What are free sugars?

The type of sugars most adults and children in the UK eat too much of are ‘free sugars’.

These are mainly sugars which have been added to food and drinks and provide excess calories with limited nutritional value.

Working out free sugars can take some practice – for example - it is healthier to eat fruit and vegetables whole - whether fresh, frozen or dried - because when a fruit or vegetable is processed (e.g. into a smoothie, fruit juice or puree) the sugars become free sugars.

Milk and milk-based products contain a naturally occurring sugar (lactose), but any sugars added to create flavour are free sugars (e.g. in a chocolate milkshake or flavoured yoghurt). Honey, other syrups, and nectars are also free sugars and so if you’re looking to cut down your sugar intake, they are not a useful substitute.

Free sugars are:

  • Added sugars including honey, syrups and nectars.
  • All sugars in drinks (except from the lactose in milk drinks)
  • All sugars in jams, marmalades, fruit spreads and conserves.
  • All sugars in fruit and vegetable purees.

Free sugars are not:

  • Sugars naturally present in whole, dried, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables.
  • Sugars naturally present in stewed fruit and vegetables.
  • Natural sugars in milk and milk products (milk, cream, cheese and plain yoghurt).
  • Natural sugars in cereal grains, nuts and seeds


Sugar smart shopping

Many everyday nutritious foods like breakfast cereals, which contain fibre and important vitamins, can be high in sugar.

Checking food and drink labels allows you to spot these sneaky sugars and compare products and brands to make healthier choices.

Some companies make label reading easier by using either colour-coded labelling or Reference Intakes on the front of packaging. Sugar is reported on packaging as total sugars, which includes both naturally occurring and free sugars.

Reference Intakes (RIs) are general guidelines for the average amount of energy and certain nutrients that adults should not exceed in a day and are stated as a percentage (%). Remember, the RI for sugars is a maximum of the total daily intake (90g) and not of the recommended maximum for free sugars (30g). If you’re buying for children, the RIs for children are far lower than for adults.

It is hard to tell the difference between the amounts of free and naturally occurring sugars that a product contains, because the RI refers to total sugars. Check the ingredient list: if sugar, glucose, honey, syrups and fruit juice concentrates appear in the top three ingredients then it is high in free sugars.


Tips to limit your daily sugar intake:

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast high in fibre, e.g. porridge with flaxseeds, raisins or berries; yogurt with fruit; bran flakes; unsweetened muesli.
  • Keep healthy snacks readily available at home, at work, and even in the car, e.g. carrots and hummus, a piece of fruit and handful of plain nuts or some olives.
  • Remove artificial sweeteners. These make it harder to retrain your taste buds.
  • Include protein in every meal; this helps keep you feeling fuller for longer and helps reduce your sugar cravings. Try meat, oily fish, eggs, plain nuts, seeds.
  • Do not consume your calories via beverages; instead, drink two large glasses of water when you find yourself craving sugar
  • Come up with five simple meals that you can put together in 15 minutes or less.
  • Remove all highly processed food from your home – if it’s not there you are less likely to eat the wrong things.
  • Keep frozen veg in the house at all times. They are quick and easy to steam for every meal.
  • Set up an online shopping account so you’re not tempted by the wrong foods at the supermarket.


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