Ways to cut back on sugar
Check the labels. Nutrition information panels often only list total sugar, so it’s hard to distinguish between added and naturally occurring ones. But you can get a sense for the amount of added sugars in a product by checking the ingredients list. Common guises for added sugars include fructose (also look for “fruit juice concentrate”), glucose, corn sugar, dextrose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses and sucrose (also look for brown sugar, cane sugar, granulated sugar, icing sugar and sugar). And remember that the sugar industry's 'better for you' sugars are still sugar.
Reduce added sugar gradually. Don’t cut out sugar from your diet all at once. Gradually reduce the amount you add to tea, coffee or cereal and start
choosing less sugary foods. Over time your tastebuds can be trained to appreciate less sugar, but studies show this adjustment typically takes eight to 12 weeks.
Watch what you drink. Sugary soft drinks, juices, fruit-based drinks and sports drinks are major sources of sugars in our diets. Water is the best beverage.
Substitute with spices. Add sweetness and flavour to food with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and nutmeg. Muffins and cakes can usually be made with at least 25% less sugar, and the sugar in stewed fruit and pie fillings can be cut in half.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy snacks. Consider fruit, low-sugar cereal or add fruit to plain yoghurt. The best way to reduce your sugar intake is to limit processed foods that don’t provide much nutritional value, and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products instead
Fructose has received bad press of late, with some studies suggesting it contributes to growing levels of obesity. This is based on the way it’s metabolised – fructose stimulates insulin secretion less than glucose and glucose-containing carbohydrates. The theory goes that less insulin – and possibly lower resulting leptin levels – might inhibit appetite less than other carbohydrates, leading to increased energy intake. However, there’s no convincing evidence that dietary fructose increases energy intake.
That said, large amounts of fructose in the diet are known to increase the triglycerides released into the bloodstream following a meal, which is a risk factor for heart disease. This is more of an issue in the US, where fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup is commonly used as a sugar substitute in processed foods due to its relative cheapness. The fructose naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables provides only a modest amount of dietary fructose and is not of concern.
Do soft drinks cause obesity?
Rising rates of obesity, accompanied by the increased consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, has resulted in a growing concern that the two issues are connected. The standard explanation for the link is that energy-containing liquids are less satiating than solid foods – meaning the body doesn’t register liquid calories. However, more studies are needed to conclusively determine the mechanisms behind the relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), our national food regulator, reported the increased consumption of sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, is a risk factor in children’s obesity. Whether from soft drinks or other sources, excessive consumption of sugars has been linked not only with obesity, but with other health problems such as dental caries and type 2 diabetes, as well as shortfalls of essential nutrients such as calcium, so it’s only sensible to limit how much sugar we’re consuming.