It occurred to me yesterday, while helping my son with his science revision, that there are so many mixed messages out there about what constitutes a balanced diet and, more specifically, about added sugar it’s no wonder we’re all a bit confused.
At Seed and Sage we are all in favour of everything in moderation, but not when it comes to sugar.
For us the basic message is quite straight forward:
Sugars naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables and dairy products - OK
Sugars that have been removed from their original source and added to food - NOT OK
Fructose in fruit is encased in fibre, hugely affecting how the fructose sugar is metabolised. Fibre impacts the sugar’s absorption, slowing its release into the blood stream. Also fibre is filling making it pretty hard to over eat naturally occurring sugars.
The same cannot be said for added sugar (in all its many forms). These sugar molecules have been freed from their original fibre casing leaving them free to whizz along the sugar super highway into the blood causing sharp spikes, stressing the liver, with excess sugar being turned to fat and in extreme cases resulting in fatty liver syndrome and diabetes – not great!
So why are there so many confusing messages out there? Put simply sugar sells. We are all pre-programmed to love sugar and so adding it to prepared foods is a quick and cheap way for manufacturers to increase consumer appeal. It is also a great preservative extending product shelf life
As the sugar debate rages it’s clear the food industry is not going to give up without a fight. If you flip the packs in your shopping basket and actually read the ingredient list you will often see a number of different forms of sugar listed. By splitting the sugar into multiple sources they can push them further down the ingredient list giving the impression that there is less sugar in the product. Also, for now, nutritional data in the UK does not distinguish between added sugar and naturally occurring sugars in fruit, veg and dairy.
So what can we do to break the cycle? We’re not convinced sugar taxes nor reducing portion size without reformulation are the answer. We need to get back to basics – teach our children how to cook using natural, whole ingredients. Put Home Economics properly on the curriculum, not just the science but practical lessons on how to make a balanced meal from scratch.
We also need to clean up our food labelling, splitting sugar content between added and naturally occurring sugars would be a good start. Also the myriad of different types of added sugar used in prepared food need to be translated in the ingredient list into a single, simple term - added sugar. To some it may be stating the obvious but for many it is not clear that date sugar / honey / maltose / maple syrup are all just added sugar by another name. Maybe then, little by little, we will start to effect change.