Healthy Tip: The big sugar debate

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Many people enjoy a chocolate bar, a piece of birthday cake or a sweet treat from time to time which always taste nice, but are you aware of hidden sugars in every day foods?  

Sugar is naturally found in many foods, like fruit and milk, but it’s often also added during processing, along with artificial sweeteners. Even so-called healthier foods and snacks such as cereal bars and low-fat products like yoghurt may contain a lot of hidden sugar.
The recommended maximum added sugar intake for anyone aged 11 and older is around 30g per day and statistics show that nearly a quarter (25%) of the added sugar in our diet comes from soft drinks, fruit juice, and other non-alcoholic drinks, rising to 40% among children aged 11 to 18 years.  More worrying, a study by consumer magazine, Which? found some ready meals contained more sugar than vanilla ice cream.
Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes and should only be eaten occasionally with the majority of your calories coming from foods such as starchy foods like wholegrains,  fruits, vegetables and legumes. 
If you have a sweet tooth, you may find it difficult to cut down on sugary foods. Slowly weaning yourself off these foods can be more effective than going cold turkey.

Try following Heart Research UK’s tips for taming that sweet tooth:
•    Always read the labels and remember that products described as ‘reduced fat’ often contain more sugar to compensate for the taste. Look out for the traffic light colour coding and go for green if possible. 
•    Watch the portion size. This doesn’t mean you have to completely miss out on that delicious fudge cake as a treat, just go for a smaller piece and factor it into your daily intake. 
•    Adjust recipes.  The amount of sugar can often be reduced without compromising on taste or texture by using naturally sweeter vegetables like carrots, beetroot, sweet potato and butternut to sweeten dishes.  
•    If you like to have sugar in hot drinks or add it to cereal, cut down gradually until you’ve cut it out altogether.
•    Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, instead of a sugar or honey-coated one - if you still feel the need to sweeten it, try a palm full of raisins or a chopped banana instead.
•    Get into the habit of finishing off your meal with fruit; this way you won’t be getting so many ‘empty’ calories.

Once you’ve reduced your intake of added sugars, you will find your taste buds will have adjusted to less-sweet tastes ‘sweet sensitive’ making it easier to avoid them and help your waistline.