There are many good reasons why we should be limiting our sugar intake (see our tips for cutting back). The sugar we add to our coffee or sprinkle on our breakfast cereal contributes to our intake, but about 80% of the sugars we eat are in the foods we buy, with soft drinks, juices, fruit-based drinks, confectionery, cakes and sports drinks the main culprits. And most of these foods are low in nutrition as well.
How much is too much?
In the Australian Dietary Guidelines of 2003 (currently being revised), the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) stated there was no evidence that, for most children and adults, deriving up to 15%-20% of energy (kilojoules) from sugars is a problem.
- For a man aged 19-70, weighing 76kg, this translates to a maximum of 136g (or 34 4g-teaspoons) of sugar a day.
- For a woman aged 19-70, weighing 61kg, it’s 105g (or about 26 teaspoons) of sugar a day.
Health risks of too much
The most recent studies indicate Australians are consuming more sugar than they need for a healthy diet. An over-consumption not only adds empty kilojoules to the diet but may also increase our risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). High intake of added sugars – those we sprinkle in our coffee or on our cereal, and those that manufacturers add to everything from confectionery to tomato sauce – is associated with increased risks of high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
If the thought of less sweetness in your diet is unpalatable, then intense sweeteners are an alternative. But they are usually present in heavily processed foods that don’t provide much nutritional value (such as biscuits, cakes, confectionery and soft drinks), so should not be consumed in large amounts anyway.