Did you know that the average Australian consumes 27 teaspoons of total sugars per day?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for normal weight adults (Note: 1 teaspoon is equivalent to ~4g sugar).
We obviously have a long way to go as a nation to comply with these recommendations but hormones and instinctive responses to sugar could be compounding the issue.
Your brain responds to sugar by flooding the body with the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. This deluge of happy hormones creates a rewarding effect, linking sugary foods with feelings of happiness and contentment. Couple this with your ancestor-driven, hard-wired survival instinct to search for sugar, fat and protein and it becomes clear why you are now torn between Krispy Kreme and the golden arches.
And just when you thought you could celebrate ‘quitting sugar’ you find out that your ‘sugar free’ recipes and purchases contain sugar disguised in other forms! These include:
Concentrated fruit juice, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, maple syrup, maltose, maltodextrin, sucrose, raw sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, honey, agave nectar, blackstrap molasses, rice syrup, rice malt syrup, barley malt.
So what can you do?
Becoming more aware when you are in the supermarket can be a great place to start. Fresh is best but when reading labels on processed foods, you not only need to look for the hidden sources of sugar and the sugar content but the big picture. This means taking energy, fat and salt into consideration as well. Aim for the following amounts:
Energy: , 600kJ per serve for a snack
Saturated Fat: < 2g /100g except in nuts, seeds, cheese, margarines, oils and butter.
Sugar: <15g / 100g
Sodium (Salt): <120mg / 100g except for bread and crackers where <400mg / 100g is acceptable
Fibre: >5g / 100g
Now this doesn't mean that you can never eat a chocolate bar again. Sometimes you may just want to eat something sweet - and that's okay. Try to maximize flavour to get the biggest bang for your buck. For example, dark chocolate has a stronger flavour than milk chocolate, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth with a small portion. Watching your portion sizes of desserts can help with weight control. Make choices that are satisfying in small amounts.
Choose naturally sweet options. To satisfy your sweet tooth without added sugar and calories, choose fresh fruit for a snack or dessert. Or, try grilled pineapple slices, a baked apple, a frozen banana, or frozen grapes.
Plan your meals and snacks. Eating regular meals and snacks can help you feel satisfied throughout the day. A balanced meal plan can also help keep you from being tempted by less healthy foods and sugar-laden snacks.