03.How much sugar
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the government’s expert body that developed our Australian dietary guidelines, says there’s no evidence that, for most people, getting up to 15–20% of energy from sugars is a problem in terms of having a healthy diet.
A joint World Health Organization (WHO)/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expert committee proposed a maximum of 10% added sugars. However, this resulted in considerable scientific debate and hasn’t been specifically included in WHO’s recently released global strategy on diet, physical activity and health.
So how much does the NHMRC’s 15–20% translate to?
- For an average man (aged between 30 and 60, weighing about 80 kg) it’s 24 to 32 teaspoons a day
- For an average women (also between 30 and 60, but weighing about 65 kg), it’s about 19 to 25 teaspoons a day.
- On average, Australians eat about the 20% level, but averages mask the high intakes of some people and the lower intakes of others.
- In general, about 80% of the sugars we eat are already in the foods we buy, with soft drinks, juices, fruit-based drinks and sports drinks being major sources of sugars in our diets. Items like confectionery and cakes are significant sources too. And most of these foods are low in nutrition as well.
You can work out the number of teaspoons in foods by dividing the grams of sugars given on the label by four (4 g is the amount of sugar in a level standard teaspoon).
You don’t need to cut out sugar completely, just keep it to a sensible level. It makes sense to limit sugary foods that don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value, such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, confectionery, soft drinks and other sugary drinks, and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals instead.