Starchy vegetables, fruits, and milk contain naturally occurring sugars such as fructose in fruits and lactose in milk. Sugars can also be found in foods high in carbohydrates like rice, bread, noodles, and pasta.
During the processing and manufacturing processes, sugar is also added to food and beverage products. White or brown sugar, honey and syrup are a few examples of added sugar.
These additional sugars are listed on food labels as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maltodextrin, maltose, among others. However, the majority of consumers are unaware that these are added sugars.
Adverse effect of sugar on our health
The World Health Organisation (WHO) mentions there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables.
It is the consumption of added or hidden sugars that leads to chronic health complications.
Prolonged intake of added sugars contributes to extra calories. One teaspoon of sugar provides 20 calories. Therefore, seven teaspoons of sugar provide 140 calories. These 140 calories which will be converted to 20 g of body fat if unused.
Are you aware that in one year’s time, this prolonged sugar intake pattern will result in 600 g of body fat per month and 7.2 kg body per year?
Over time, this condition leads to weight gain and obesity, which results in chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Excessive sugar intake has also been associated with dental caries.
Therefore, it is important to pay attention the amount of sugar that we consume daily, inclusive of hidden sugars.
Recommended daily sugar intake
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommended that the amount of total daily sugar intake (including hidden sugar) for average Malaysia adults should be:
- Limited to not more than 10% of our daily energy consumption, or
- Not exceeding 10 teaspoons a day (50g)
Tips to control your daily sugar intake
If you are looking for ways to cut down added sugar in your diet, here’s what you can do to change your sugar habit.
- Choose whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Choose unsweetened plain yoghurts and desserts low in sugar.
- Avoid high-sugar foods like doughnuts, cookies, cakes, ice cream, candies, local delicacies like ais kacang and cendol.
- Limit dried and canned fruits because they have high content of added sugar.
- Choose plain water over high-sugar beverages or try plain water flavoured with citrus slices, cucumber, fresh mint, etc.
- Ask for less sweet version when you order beverages sweetened with condensed milk, sweetened creamer, and syrup.
- Avoid consumption of carbonated drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices.
- Make it a habit to check food labels and compare sugar content on food and drink packaging.
- Limit sugary food and drink during main meals or near bedtime.
- Reduce sugar amount used in recipes and avoid relying on artificial sweeteners
The goal is to make small changes along the way until your taste buds are adjusted over time towards sweetness level.
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
Contact the team of dietitians at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital if you have questions about how to reduce sugar intake and to get professional nutrition and dietary advice in your journey towards better health.
If you would like to make an appointment for health screening, please contact the health screening centre at the Gleneagles Hospital nearest to you.
- Facts about sugar. Available at http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/facts-about-sugar/ [Accessed on 4 August 2022]
- Consume foods and beverages low in sugar. Available at https://www.moh.gov.my/moh/images/gallery/Garispanduan/diet/km10.pdf [Accessed on 4 August 2022]
- WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children. Available at https://www.who.int/news/item/04-03-2015-who-calls-on-countries-to-reduce-sugars-intake-among-adults-and-children#:~:text=A%20new%20WHO%20guideline%20recommends,would%20provide%20additional%20health%20benefits [Accessed on 4 August 2022]