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Sugar and artificial sweeteners in the diet (Part 1)

Posted by Aisling Murray on


We all know sugar is unhealthy but it is now believed that sugar can have toxic effects on our body if over consumed and cause withdrawal symptoms if suddenly removed from the diet. You do not have to be overweight to be affected negatively by overconsumption of sugar. Individuals of normal weight are still susceptible to conditions such as high blood pressure, liver problems, type 2 diabetes, etc. It may be the time to evaluate your diet and take note of how much sugar you are actually consuming. Sugar consumption has tripled over the last 50 years and mainly due to increased processed food consumption and the fact sugar is being used as a preservative in a lot of foods. There is no escaping the fact that sugar is everywhere!


This article is not about avoidance but more about limiting the consumption of sugar and sugar laced foods. I am a big believer in “everything in moderation” so if sugar is not eaten in huge quantities then adverse health effects are fewer.


Thinking grams of sugar

To put sugar consumption into perspective, one teaspoon of table sugar is 4g. The RDA for sugar in the diet is 90g for woman and 120g for men. This may seem like a lot of sugar within a day; however it is easy exceed this. Remember that fruit contains sugar and this falls under the RDA. Fruit has natural sugars; although better for you they are still sugar and an average apple can have 11g of sugar.


To ensure you are not exceeding the RDA for sugar, I recommend reading labels and educating yourself on the ingredients in the food you are eating. Any food which contains 10g of sugar per 100g is considered adequate; try to avoid high sugar foods or any food which has over 15g sugar per 100g. Some foods you may consider to be healthy can actually have a lot of sugar. For example, Kellogg’s Special K® has 17g sugar per 100g and some of the sweeter alternatives like the Special K Red Berry® has 23g sugar per 100g which is extremely high. Low fat foods can also have high levels of sugar so don't be fooled by clever marketing terms like “low fat”; while that claim is may be true it doesn't tell you the whole picture; for example a sugar free fruit yoghurt can have as much as 16g of sugar.


To be continued next week…I will give examples of ways to cut your sugar intake without affecting taste


Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Plans start from €10 per week. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment


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