Since we introduced extra nutrient tracking to Nutracheck, a question we've been asked a number of times is..
'Help! I am always going over my sugar target – what can I do?'
Sugar is a tricky area as we can't distinguish between added sugars and those naturally occurring in fruit and milk because current UK labelling laws don't require manufacturers to display these types of sugars separately. So for this reason, we have to give you a total sugars target, rather than an added sugars target.
Here's more detail on what this means.
The official guideline for sugar intake is currently only for added sugars – and this was reduced from 10% of our total energy, to 5% in 2015. However the recommended 'total' sugars intake on UK packaging is still set at 90g per day based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, which equates to 18% of energy from total sugars. This is the figure we use to calculate your sugar guide amount. It does mean of course that if you're trying to lose weight and are on a reduced calorie diet, your sugar target in grams will be less than someone with a weight maintenance calorie intake.
It really depends on where most of your sugar is coming from. If you look through your food diary and the sugar is largely from fruits, vegetables or milk products – then there is really no need to be concerned, even if you are going over your target. However if you find most of your sugar is coming from foods such as sauces, ready meals, confectionery or sugary drinks for example, then it's definitely worth making some changes.
In a nutshell – no. Although sugar is sugar and the way it is used within our body once it reaches the liver is the same, no matter where it's come from – the additional nutrients you get from fruit mean it doesn't have the overall same effect as eating a chocolate bar for example. Fruit and milk which contain sugar, also contain important nutrients such as calcium, fibre and vitamins, which make a beneficial contribution to our diet. Fruits are broken down more slowly by the body due to the fibre content, meaning they don't cause the same blood sugar spike that say a biscuit would. And you're also far less likely to eat an apple and want another immediately after – like you would a chocolate biscuit!
It's important to remember that 5-a-day is a minimum target as this was considered achievable for the general population. Eating more than this is great! So if you do find you're eating 4 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables, and it's this which is taking you over your sugar allowance – there is no need to worry at all!
Here at Nutracheck we're all about balance – everything in moderation is fine. No one single nutrient is responsible for people being overweight, it's an individual's overall diet and total calories consumed that matter, so try not to get too focused on one particular nutrient. Look at your diet as a whole, as long as it's mostly good wholesome stuff with a few treats thrown in – following our 80%/20% rule – then you're doing great!
Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.