Sweet Switch

Learn­ing to con­sume less sugar for bet­ter health.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

‘Sugar isn’t a prob­lem if con­sumed at rec­om­mended lev­els, but too much can lead to den­tal de­cay and a higher body weight.’ Dr Sze Yen Tan, di­eti­tian

We hu­mans are hard­wired to like the sweet stuff. Two mil­lion years ago, it steered us to­wards high-kilo­joule or nu­tri­ent-rich foods that helped us sur­vive. All well and good when wild honey and fruit were the only dessert op­tions, but not in a 21st-cen­tury su­per­mar­ket where en­tire aisles are de­voted to soft drink, sweets and bis­cuits.

A re­cent study from Syd­ney’s Ge­orge In­sti­tute for Global Health found that about 70 per cent of pack­aged foods con­tain added sugar. No sur­prise, then, that the av­er­age sugar in­take in Aus­tralia is about 14 tea­spoons a day, ac­cord­ing to the

Aus­tralian Health Sur­vey, not count­ing the sug­ars found nat­u­rally in foods such as milk, fruit and ve­g­ies. Mean­while, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion sug­gests that added sugar should be no more than 10 per cent of our to­tal kilo­joule in­take – about 12 tea­spoons a day.

“Sugar isn’t a prob­lem if it’s con­sumed at rec­om­mended lev­els, but too much can lead to den­tal de­cay and a higher body weight, and be­ing over­weight in­creases the risk of type 2 di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and some can­cers,” says Dr Sze Yen Tan, a di­eti­tian and lec­turer at

Deakin Uni­ver­sity’s School of Ex­er­cise and Nu­tri­tion Sciences.

Re­duc­ing the amount of sugar in your bak­ing is one small change you can make, says Dr Tan, as long as you’re not fooled into think­ing you can eat more. If you use al­ter­na­tive sweet­en­ers, there are some small ad­van­tages. For ex­am­ple, honey and maple syrup are sweeter than white sugar so you need to use less, while agave syrup has a very low GI so is bet­ter for blood-sugar con­trol. But on bal­ance, the dif­fer­ence is very small, he adds.

“Ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers have their place if they help over­weight peo­ple tran­si­tion to a health­ier diet, but the cru­cial point is that we need to be less de­pen­dent on sweet food,” says Dr Tan.

It is pos­si­ble to ad­just to re­duce sugar in your diet, says Pro­fes­sor Rus­sell Keast of the Cen­tre for Ad­vanced Sen­sory Sci­ence at Deakin Uni­ver­sity. “But once you’ve re­set your palate to pre­fer less sweet foods, you have to keep it up. If you go back to eat­ing more sweet foods again, your palate will read­just to how it was be­fore.”

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