Recently, sugar has featured in headlines but often the message can be conflicting and people are left feeling confused about what they should and should not eat.

It is important to point out that there are different types of sugar, intrinsic sugars and extrinsic sugars.

Intrinsic sugars form part of the structure of the food. Whole fruits and vegetables are examples of foods that contain intrinsic sugars. Extrinsic sugars are not part of the structure of the food. Lactose is unique as it is an extrinsic milk sugar and is naturally occurring in milk and dairy products. Non milk extrinsic sugars (NMES), more commonly known as added sugar is found in confectionary, cakes and soft drinks and is not naturally occurring.

As a general rule intrinsic sugars and lactose can be consumed plentifully however foods containing NMES or added sugar should be avoided.

Intrinsic Sugar Recommendations

There are no upper limits to the amount of whole fruits and vegetables (fresh and or frozen) a healthy individual should consume in a day. Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fibre in the diet. Canned fruit and vegetables often contain sugar and salt as a preservative and should be consumed in conjunction with whole fruits and vegetables.

Extrinsic Sugar Recommendations

Ideally this should be called non-milk extrinsic sugar or “added sugar” recommendations. Added sugar should not equate to anymore than 5% of total daily energy. An adult with a 2000 kcal daily energy intake should consume no more than 100 kcal from sugar. This equates to 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The easiest way to track this is by checking food and drink labels and not adding table sugar to food such as breakfast cereal and hot beverages. Click here to understand food labels and track added sugar intake.

Hidden Sugar

It may or may not surprise you that added sugar is present in many food products. It is not necessarily hidden as it is declared on the food label but sugar is added to food that you do not usually associate with tasting sweet. The most common products include breads, yoghurts, savoury sauces and ready meals.

Three ways to reduce sugar in the diet

1.Choose low sugar or sugar free options

2. Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your food and hot beverages. By gradually reducing it you can aim to eventually cut out adding sugar completely.

3. Replace high sugar snacks with whole fruit snacks


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