Jamie Oliver is pushing for a tax on sugary drinks, but this isn’t the only place sugar is hiding in your daily diet.
In recent news, sugar’s been getting a lot of negative press. One leading Dutch health expert has even called it “the most dangerous drug of our time”, commenting that sugary food and drinks should include a health warning akin to the one on cigarette packets.¹
Now Public Health England (PHE) wants the government to do something about the nation’s addiction to sugar. In its report released earlier this month, it claimed that we’re “eating too much sugar” which is leading to serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The report gave a series of recommendations to help reduce our sugar intake, one of the most divisive being the proposal of a sugar tax between 10 and 20 percent.
But can we really escape sugar in our diet? Of course, we all know it’s found in biscuits, cakes and chocolate – the list of sweet treats is seemingly endless. What you might not notice are the sugar culprits masquerading as healthy food. And with the PHE report recommending that no more than five percent of our daily calories should come from sugar (at the moment it’s averaging at 12 to 15 percent), we need to be on the look-out for these saccharine offenders. Here are five for starters:
Fruit juice and squash
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been one of the biggest advocates for introducing a sugar tax, particularly on sugary drinks. In a recent post on his Facebook page, he calculated that a 500ml bottle of the blackberry based drink, Ribena, contained a whopping 13 teaspoons of sugar. This news comes as a surprise with Ribena typically seen as a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks. Oliver even went as far to compare it to a 500ml bottle of Pepsi. The result? Just one teaspoon more of sugar at 14 in the latter. It’s no surprise then that Tesco has stopped stocking Ribena and other sugary drinks in an attempt to tackle obesity.
Fruit juices in general, such as orange and apple juice, have been enjoying some great health PR for years, but the example above proves just how little the difference in sugar content can be between juice and fizz. And while it may be natural sugars in the former, studies have shown it can still cause the same health problems as the artificial sweeteners we find in pop.²
Yoghurt is typically seen as a healthy alternative to say, a Twirl or a Mars Bar, when those mid-afternoon hunger pangs kick in. But you may be surprised to know that a pot of seemingly innocent low-fat yoghurt contains a dastardly amount of sugar – five teaspoons to be exact. The more hazardous options are the flavoured varieties, but even plain yoghurt contains anything between 12 and 15 grams of sugar. According to one expert, we should instead go for Greek yoghurt, which comes in at around 6 grams of sugar in the plain varieties, and add in chopped fresh fruit for flavour.
As a nation of pasta lovers, grabbing some tinned tomatoes to make a quick sauce to go with our penne or spaghetti is known to be an easy and healthy option. But next time you do, check the nutritional label on the can for the sugar content. One cup can contain nearly four teaspoons of sugar³. Ketchup and tinned products with tomato sauce - such as baked beans - also pack a heavy sugar punch. The good news is that there are a lot of low-sugar tomato options out there, so it pays to check the label.
A bowl of cereal versus a doughnut? Deciding which is the healthier option is, on the face of it, a no-brainer. A great exemplar for misleading packaging, one dietician from the Environmental Working Group has calculated that many ‘healthy’ cereals contain more sugar in just one cupful than a doughnut. As with fruit juices, while some of the sugar source may be natural – such as raisins, even muesli and granola can be sugar-filled, so make sure to check what’s actually in your cereal before you buy it.
Alternatives to cow milk
Almond, soy, hemp, cashew, you name it - alternatives to cow milk are ever-increasing and especially popular for those dealing with lactose intolerance or experimenting with a vegan diet. But watch out for the cheaper options of these non-dairy products, which can often be heavily sweetened and contain a pitiful amount of the actual fruit or nut that the milk is based on.
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