So, we all know sugar isn’t good for us – there’s nothing new there.
But the problem is that sugar, often in large quantities is turning up in unexpected places ,so it’s not always so easy to make the healthiest choices.
Banishing all sugar is not realistic, or indeed much fun. The occasional cheat is pretty fundamental, however, it’s important to know when you’re cheating, so that you can take control of your diet, and understand what’s in the foods you’re using to fuel your body.
To explain more, sugar expert Gudrun Jonsson, shares her top tips:
CHECK THE SUGAR PERCENTAGE OF EVERYTHING YOU EAT—YOU’LL BE SURPRISED!
When you look at labels, always check the nutrition values per 100g, as this will give you the percentage of each food group. So, if there is 45g of sugar per 100g, the food is 45% sugar (sounds super obvious, but it’s easy to forget it’s that simple). This is the best way to compare foods because most products have totally different serving sizes and it means you are comparing all your foods like for like.
NOTE THAT THE NHS DEFINES “HIGH SUGAR” AS FOODS THAT CONTAIN 22.5g OF SUGAR (OR MORE) PER 100g.
This is a really good rough guide to remember when checking those labels. Many snack bars/ balls are a staggering 40%+ sugar! Knowing this means you can choose your cheats wisely and be in the know when you’re consuming high sugar products which are marketed as a healthy option.
WHEN “ENERGY” IS USED THE NAME OF A PRODUCT, IT’S USUALLY CODE FOR “HIGH IN SUGAR”.
Energy bars were originally designed to eat immediately before high impact exercise, when you’d be using up glucose quickly. But if you’re eating these at other times (like while sitting in your office or chilling on the coach), you’ll just get a ton of extra sugar, or carbs that your body can’t use. Once your body maxes out its carb stores, your body will store the excess as fat.
DATES ARE SUPER HIGH IN SUGAR, NOT A SUPERFOOD
Yes, they’re “all-natural” and they’re in absolutely everything, but they’re still 65-80% sugar (depending on variety). That means that “healthy” date ball is probably close to half sugar, so watch out!
DON’T GET CONNED BY “NO REFINED SUGAR” AND “NO ADDED SUGAR” CLAIMS– THEY CAN BE REALLY MISLEADING
Although whole food sources of sweetness are usually preferable to most refined sugars, because they add benefits like fibre which slows down the breakdown, it doesn’t mean that the sugar doesn’t count. If a food is high in sugar, it’s high in sugar. Many “no added sugar” snack bars and balls are higher in sugar than conventional chocolate bars. Also, many brands use “no added sugar” claims very literally to mean that they just haven’t added table sugar– i.e. they are still adding sweeteners like agave.
DON’T GET SEDUCED BY “ALL NATURAL” MARKETING CLAIMS, “ALL NATURAL” DOESN’T NECESSARILY EQUATE TO HEALTHY
Without a doubt, eat “all-natural” foods, but don’t assume that means they are healthy—particularly with processed snacks. Just because those millionaire bars are made with “all-natural” ingredients, doesn’t make them intrinsically healthy. Remember, the ingredients you use to bake at home are usually all-natural, but you’d never mistake a cake as being healthy. After all, table sugar is made from “all natural” sugar cane (or beets)!
FIRST CHECK THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR USED, THEN THE TYPE OF SUGAR
The amount of sugar is the first priority, next is the type of sugar—i.e. how quickly that sugar will break down and enter your blood stream. Choose Low Glycaemic Index options that break down more slowly, offering a host of benefits from providing sustained energy to improving mood and concentration. The Glycaemic Index rates foods from 1-100, with pure glucose topping the scale at 100 and table sugar coming in at around 60-70.
The higher the GI number the quicker your body breaks it down, creating a sugar rush and then a subsequent crash. Many leading snack bars/balls are made with brown rice syrup which sounds healthy, but it has a GI of 98 so we’re talking serious sugar rush here. And many popular nut bars are wrapped in pure glucose syrup. Keep an eye out for snacks which use dried plums as a base, like the award-winning Nibble Protein range (www.nibbleprotein.com) of Protein and Brownie Bites. Ranked as the number 1 food in antioxidant power, nutrient-rich dried plums are low GI, packed with fibre and they’re also a good source of iron, potassium, boron (needed for strong bones & muscles), magnesium and vitamins K and A.