Sugar is often seen as the enemy. If you’re trying to lose weight then you might think you need to avoid it altogether. You don’t need to cut it out COMPLETELY (I couldn’t live without chocolate!) but the question of how much sugar should you have in a day remains.
Well, it depends on the type of sugar. In case you’re not familiar with the difference between the processed and natural sugar, I’ll explain briefly.
Processed sugar is made from either a sugarcane plant or sugar beet. The juice is extracted and then dried.
However, the smallest of changes in the cleaning, crystallizing and drying parts of this process can make a huge difference to the sugar produced.
In general, the more molasses remains in the sugar, the darker the sugar will be. You can also heat the sugar to change its color.
Natural sugar is different.
Natural sugar is the same basic element as processed sugar. It is a simple carbohydrate which is easily absorbed by your body to be used as energy.
But natural sugar is better for you than processed sugar! This is because it is natural and hasn’t been processed and refined.
Natural sugar is present in fruit, milk and even cheese. It does contribute to your calorie count but will also give you a range of nutrients, fibers, minerals, and antioxidants.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that no more than 10% of your daily energy intake is through sugar consumption. This applies to processed sugars AND natural sugars. So if you eat 1600 calories per day, 10% is 160 calories, and this amounts to 40g of sugar (10 tsp).
There are other guidelines that state different amounts. And the WHO also suggests that a 5% intake would be better than 10%.
Of course, you should be focusing on natural sugars as these will give you other health benefits and not just be ‘empty calories’. Because of these health benefits (particularly fiber), they will also be absorbed slower by your body. This gives a gradual and prolonged energy boost and reduces the chance of diabetes in the future.
So what do 5-10 teaspoons of sugar look like in the real world?
One teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4.2 grams (.14 ounces). This is not very much; especially when you start noticing how much is in some of the foods you eat on a daily basis:
A 100 gram (3.52 ounces) banana will give you 12 grams (.42 ounces) of sugar. This is about 3 teaspoons of sugar. Your average medium-sized banana is approximately this weight.
Every berry is slightly different but as an average, you’ll get 4-5 grams (.14 – .17 ounces) of sugar per cup of berries. This is one of the best sources of sugar as they are also full of fiber. And 1 cup of berries is only about 1 teaspoon of sugar – winning!
You’ll find 9 grams (.31 ounces) of sugar in 100g (3.52oz) of peanut butter. A recommended single serving is approximately 30g (1oz).
White bread usually has sugar added to it. This gives it an approximate value of 5g (.17oz) of sugar to 100g (3.52oz) of bread.
To put this in context one slice of white bread is roughly 30g (1.05oz).
Of course, every cereal is different so you’ll need to check the sides of the box before you buy it.
On average, a 30g (1oz) bowl of cereal will contain 10g (.35oz) of sugar (but many of them have MUCH more!). That’s why you might want to consider making it at home, from scratch. A nice bowl of porridge with some fruit and nuts will do you much more good!
Or, if you don’t like porridge, you can try my favorite acai bowl recipe. Enjoy!
At the end of the day, you don’t need to avoid sugar completely. Avoiding “bad foods” and cutting them out of our diet can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Being aware of how much sugar is in certain foods and being vigilant when buying food will help to ensure you only consume what you need.
But don’t forget that the WHO guideline is just a guideline. If you are trying to lose weight, then staying under this amount is a good idea. But, if you are particularly active then you may get away with consuming a little more.
Most importantly, focus on natural sugars such as those in dairy, fresh fruit and veg as they provide lots of beneficial nutrients!