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Firstly, we need to understand the key differences between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.
- Naturally occurring sugar would basically mean the sugar content that is already existent in our whole foods, like fruits, in vegetables etc.
- Added sugar, on the other hand, will be those that are artificially included into our foods, such as processed items like ice cream, cakes, confectionary, which relies on quite a substantial amount of added sugar for taste.
Does our body really need sugar?
Now does our body really need all these added sugar in processed foodstuff?
Well, sugar is a form of carbohydrate and carbohydrate is considered a macronutrient. It is the primary source of energy for our body, and when consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into its simplest form, which is glucose for the cells, tissues, muscles, organs to use as energy, with the help of insulin.
According to the American Heart Association, the fact is, our body does not need any added sugar to function healthily. The naturally occurring sugars that we consume from our meals is already adequate enough to fulfil our body’s daily requirements. Not to mention, fruits and vegetables are rich in beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (1).
How much added sugar is recommended ?
It is recommended that added sugars be kept at about 10% of our daily calorie intake. So, take for example the average person’s calorie consumption should be at an average of about 2000 Kcal. That means, 10% of it would be 200 Kcal.
By doing the math, 1 teaspoon of sugar is about 5 grams and is equivalent to 20 Kcal. That means, 200 Kcal is actually equals to 10 teaspoons of sugar or about 50 grams of added sugar a day (2).
Some more stringent guidelines place daily limit at 25 to 35 g of added sugar a day. The bottomline is as long as one can reduce their daily sugar intake by 20g, the health benefits will be far reaching for sure.
How much added sugar in our meals
Healthhub actually did a pretty good infographic depicting the added sugars that are in a typical day’s worth of meals, it shows us exactly how easy it is for us to actually exceed this limit. Please be reminded, this is added sugar, meaning the sugar that is not naturally occurring in the food.
- For breakfast, if you consume a kaya bun with kopi, that will constitute to 18 + 20g = 38 grams of added sugar.
- A plate of say mee siam, has a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, another 50 g in the bag.
- If you have tea breaks, and choose a slice of chiffon cake with kopi siu dai (less sugar kopi), then that will be 26 g of sugar added into the basket.
- Lastly, for dinner, a good ol’ Dry wonton noodles with maybe a bar of chocolate for dessert, 28.5 grams of sugar.
In total, the daily sugar intake is 29.5 teaspoons or 142.5g of sugar. This is close to 3 times the limit recommended at 50 grams and this is how easy one can exceed the limit on a daily basis. Just imagine the accumulative effect it has, day after day!
Added sugar is something our body does not require for proper function, as a matter of fact, it does more harm than benefit the body. Do note that added sugar comes in many names under the ingredient list, it is more crucial to read the sugar content that is reflected in the nutrition panel instead. Remember, the lesser the added sugar intake, the better.
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)