Sugar has certainly been a hot topic of debate in nutrition in recent years and as a result, there is increasing concern and confusion about sugar in the diet. The sugar debate is not a new concept but in 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated guidelines recommending that ‘free’ or added sugars should be less than 10% of total calorie intake…their view is to reduce this to less the 5% of total calories.
Understanding the difference between natural and added sugars is important. Natural sugars are those that occur naturally in the food e.g. lactose is the natural sugar in milk and fructose in the natural sugar in fruit and vegetables. These foods are important foods in our diets and offer lots of nutritional benefits. The WHO guideline is not referring to these types of sugars. Added or ‘free’ sugars are the sugars that are added to a food either in production or by us. These sugars can include table sugar, glucose, sucrose, honey, syrup, agave nectar and fruit juice. Once they have been added to the food they are considered a ‘free sugar’. These are the ones we need to reduce in our diets.
When we look at fruit we know that fructose is what gives fruit it’s lovely sweet taste but fruits also offer many nutrients and substances that are essential for good health including vitamins, antioxidants, potassium, water, and fibre. In fact, the fibre found in fruits has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease! So fruit gets it delicious sweetness from fructose but is relatively low in calories, thereby making fruit a healthy tool for quenching that sugar craving!