Despite these risks, Australians consume approximately 54 kilograms of sugar per year – the equivalent of 27 teaspoons per person, per day! The World Health Organisation recently released its much-anticipated guidelines for sugar consumption, recommending that added sugar only contributes to five per cent of the recommended daily energy intake – or around six teaspoons a day.
Sticking to this can be difficult, considering sugar is everywhere –even in places you don’t expect. It’s in the fruit juice you have for breakfast, your pasta sauce at lunch, and your sweet afternoon treats. Well Naturally’s mission is to help consumers reduce their sugar intake, thereby increasing their overall health and wellbeing, whilst still being able to indulge in their favourite snack.
Get the facts on sugar consumption with our “What you need to know about Sugar” FAQ.
Hold the sugar – you’re sweet enough!
Sometimes, a sweet treat seems like a ray of joy. But there is a dark side to excessive sugar consumption. Read on for insights into how to make healthier choices. The World Health Organisation recently released its much-anticipated guidelines for daily sugar intake. The recommendations echoed existing guidance that consumption should be less than 10 per cent of total energy intake a day (around 10 to 12 level teaspoons of sugar – one level teaspoon is 4.2g). However, WHO took its guidelines further, and suggested 5 per cent daily intake would be better (around six teaspoons a day). The American Heart Association advises that to decrease the risk of weight gain and heart disease, men should stick to nine teaspoons a day of added sugar, women six, and children three.
What’s the problem?
Sugar, in its simplest form, delivers no nutritional value other than energy, at an energy value of 17kJ per gram. This energy intake is therefore considered “empty calories”. If your caloric intake is in excess of what the body needs to function normally, the extra energy will be stored as fat.
No one particular sugar is “healthier” than another. For example, natural sugar is no better than added sugar. Excessive consumption of sugars – natural or added – can result in undesirable health outcomes such as type 2 diabetes (which can lead to heart disease), obesity and tooth decay.
Added sugar is not just present in cakes, biscuits, lollies, chocolate, ice cream and soft drink. Added sugar is in many everyday, packaged foods we may not expect, such as sauces, dressings, spreads, breads, cereals, soups, muesli bars, juices and yoghurts. Whilst it is a good source of fibre and nutrients, fruit also contains high levels of natural sugars, in particular fructose – a form of sugar. A good way to determine just how much sugar is in packaged food, is to study the nutrition panel, which will always display the amount of sugar, measured in grams per 100 grams of the food (i.e. as a percentage).
What are the alternatives?
Stevia is a plant-based intensive sweetener used to enhance the sweetness of food and beverages. Aside from being naturally derived, the other major benefit of stevia is that it contains zero calories.
It is a particular part of the stevia leaf that contains the sweetening properties so coveted as a natural sweetener: A group of compounds called steviol glycosides. Steviol glycosides are not absorbed in the digestive system and this is the predominant reason why stevia is considered safe, with zero calories. Research also indicates that stevia does not remain in the body.
Stevia is around 250 times sweeter than sugar, so only a tiny amount is needed to produce the same level of sweetness.
Given the glut of artificial, chemical sweeteners used in low calorie consumable products on the market, it can be understandable that consumers approach alternative sweeteners with an air of caution. The safety of high purity stevia leaf extract for human consumption has been established in well over 200 peer-reviewed studies.
All major global regulatory organisations such as the USAFDA the EU and including Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), have determined high purity stevia leaf extract to be safe for use as a food ingredient by the whole family.
Snack wrap up: Choose sweet snacks that contain no added sugar and instead opt for naturally sweet snacks (like fruit) or those sweetened with stevia.