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Sweet Enough

Sweet Enough

Ben S & Henry W-S —

One third of New Zealand adults are obese. What’s gone wrong?

Our Year 13 Food Studies class is investigating the potential over consumption of sugar in New Zealand. We hope to educate the community about the over consumption of sugar in New Zealand and therefore leave you thinking about the real risks related to over consuming refined sugar.

Eating lots of high sugar foods leads to under-nutrition (micro-nutrients deficiency) and over-nutrition (energy over-consumption resulting in overweight and obesity). Our diets today consist, more than ever, of processed foods (that contain high amounts of added sugar) and less of the foods that give us key nutrients and fibre. As food companies swap out the more expensive ingredients in their foods and replace them with the cheap, white crystals we all know and love [refined sugar], their profits sky-rocket.

One meal in particular has evolved into a sugary disaster; you know it, breakfast! The most important meal of the day has evolved into, essentially, empty carbs. Cereal brands that claim to be “full of goodness” are misleading and simply wrong as they still contain very high amounts of added sugar. For example, Nutri-grain, Milo Cereal, Special-K, Cheerios etc. all are made up of at least 20% white sugar.

As well as breakfast, processed snack foods are another major contributor to the current rise in consumption of refined sugar. Snacks foods, like the ones found in this SBHS student’s lunch, are easy to chuck in your son’s lunch box; all you have to do is open a packet. As much as these snacks are appealing because of their convenience, we urge you to think about the affect these high-in-sugar but low-in-nutrition snacks are going to have on your son’s health. Sugary drinks are the biggest culprit when it comes to consuming high amounts of white sugar, so please keep this in mind. Sugary drinks include juice as well; anything with high amounts (concentration) of sugar.

Sugar is toxic to your body when too much is ingested. Our body are built to consume sugars when they are a part of food, not added to it; too much white sugar and your liver is put into overdrive, it then requests help from your pancreas which have to pump insulin into your liver to help digest to the sugar. When this happens the excess energy produced by all that sugar ultimately turns into fat, unless you go for a 5km run strait after that bowl of coco-pops, and that’s just for the bowl of coco-pops. This is why we stress you eat less processed foods and eat more whole foods (including vegetables, fruit, nuts… anything that is straight from nature). The World Health Organization recommends you limit your daily intake of sugar to 9 teaspoons for men, and 6 teaspoons for women. However, we currently consume around 27 teaspoons of added sugar per day (on average… some people consume a lot more…).

4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. It is not hard to work out how many teaspoons of sugar is in a product by looking at the amount of sugar per 100g on the nutritional information label.

Here are some really good tips on how to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet:

1. Go natural. Eat natural sources of sugar over added sugars. Added sugars like honey, agave, and high fructose corn syrup contain empty calories meaning they have zero nutritional value. Fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables instead because they contain fiber that slows the rate of absorption of carbohydrates along with improving cholesterol levels, digestion, and satiety to help with weight loss.

2. Learn the label lingo. The food label doesn’t differentiate between added and natural sugars (though it may in the future), instead it lumps them all together. To get natural sugar sources check the ingredient list to know if there are any added sugars in the product. Sugar lurks behind these words in the ingredient list: molasses, organic cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, malt sugar, corn syrup, honey, syrup, and words ending in “ose” dextrose, lactose, maltose, fructose, glucose, sucrose.

3. Compare products. Looking for the lowest sugar foods? Check the nutrition label to see which product is lowest in sugar. Don’t be fooled by “low sugar” or “diet foods” as they are often packed with artificial sugars, which is another blog for another day. Bottom line: eat real “natural” convenience foods lowest in added sugar.

4. Lower it gradually. Instead of cutting sugar cold turkey, lower your intakes slowly. If you usually eat sweets after lunch and dinner, start by taking it down to one meal a day.

5. Clean out the pantry. If you have tempting foods in the kitchen, you might need to do a little pantry detox. Go out for the ice cream sundae instead of bringing a carton it into the house.