It will not come as a surprise to anyone but we are consuming to much of the white stuff (sugar) every day.
But what is quite shocking is a study by the Dublin Dental University Hospital at Trinity college, and published in the European journal of nutrition, that found that three year olds in Ireland are consuming an average of ten teaspoons of sugar a day.
That is more than twice the maximum recommended by the world health organisation which is four to five teaspoons daily.
Sugar is also blamed for a rise of nearly a quarter in the number of children under four having to have one or more of their baby teeth extracted and it has been singled out as one of the biggest contributing factors in the national obesity crisis, which is no surprise as it has been shown that the average adult consumes a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar a day.
I’m not telling you this to scare you but to raise awareness of just how much sugar you may be consuming without even realising it!
So where is all this sugar coming from if you aren’t adding it to your food?
There are two main sources of sugar, natural and processed.
Natural sugar is found in whole, natural foods. You likely associate fruit as the food group closely linked to natural sugar, but some vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, beetroot, and onions also contain some natural sugar. Another example of natural sugar include the sugars found in dairy products, better known as lactose.
Processed sugar is sugar that's been tinkered with in some way and extracted from its natural source. Examples of processed sugar include white granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave.
Sugar is a carbohydrate in its simplest form. There are many types of sugar, from maple syrup to high-fructose corn syrup. Regardless of the type, your body breaks down these sugars into glucose, your body's preferred form of energy.
However when you eat complex carbohydrate such as those found in wholegrains, wheat and oats or natural sugars such as that found in fruit and vegetables, you are also benefitting from other nutrients such as, fibre, vitamins and minerals. These type of carbohydrates are made from long chains of glucose, therefore they take longer for your body to break down. This longer digestion time gives you more sustained energy and helps you to avoid blood sugar and insulin spikes.
However when you eat processed sugar, found in sweets, cakes and biscuits, fruit drinks, ice-cream, ice-pops and breakfast cereals, there are no added health benefits or nutrients, as these simple sugars move along your bloodstream quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar which leads to a spike in the production of the fat storing hormone insulin.
A lot of the time we associate too much sugar with weight gain and tooth decay, however there are other side effects of consuming too much sugar you may not have associated with sugar consumption, such as digestive issues, bloating, irritability, cravings, headaches, acne, joint pain, brain fog and the more obvious one, struggling to lose weight. This is to name but a few.
So just how can you cut down on your family’s sugar consumption without too much protest.
Firstly spot where the sugar is creeping in by checking labels, but be aware that sugar has over 50 different names!!
Some of the most common ones you will see are glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, galactose, lactose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, brown rice syrup.
Don’t be fooled into thinking so called 'healthy alternatives' such as coconut sugar, agave nectar and honey are any better for you. They are nothing more than sugar in fancy dress!
Don’t just check the labels on the sweet treats though, make sure that you check out the sugar content and ingredient list on the not so obvious offenders such as, breakfast cereals, cereal bars and fruit juices, which are often the worst offenders.
We think of a glass of orange juice as one of our five a day, forgetting the fact it contains five tablespoons of sugar and none of the fibre of eating the whole fruit.
It’s important to remember that marketing ploys such as 'no added suger' doesn’t mean there is no sugar in the product. You can bet its in there under disguise.
And last but not least let’s not forget the artificial sweeteners. As a nutritionist I am often asked about artificial sweeteners and if they are any better for us than sugar. The short answer is no.
Artificial sweeteners are man- made products that are no better for us than real sugar. And some, notably aspartame and acesulfame-K, have been linked to cancer. Sugar alcohols like sorbitol are poorly broken down by the body, which just ends up feeding the bad bacteria in the large intestine leading to all sorts of digestive issues.
What you may not know is that artificial sweeteners and many other ‘natural sweeteners’ that find their way into so-called healthy food, behave in the body the same way as actual sugar by raising your blood sugar levels, which is followed by a blood sugar drop, leaving you feeling tired and craving even more sugar.
I don’t expect you to cut sugar out of your diet completely, instead start slowly by making one or two changes every week, until you are finally off the sugar rollercoaster.
Instead of swapping one sugary breakfast cereal for another why not try one of my breakfast options from my 28-day rescue guide which is free to download from my website www.thenutricoach.ie or instead of reaching for the sugary snack check out one of my seven snack ideas from my guide,
Debbie Devane from The Nutri Coach is a qualified nutritionist and health coach, Debbie runs her clinic from the Glenard Clinic in Mountmellick and also offers one to one online consultations. Debbie is also Nutritionist to the Offaly GAA senior footballers. For more information or to make an appointment email Debbie at
Facebook: The Nutri Coach @debbiedevanethenutricoach
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