The World Health Organisation outlines a variety of guidelines around sugar consumption – and they’re onto something. For those of you with sugar-guzzling sceptics in your life, this article’s for you.
Here’s how staying within these guidelines can reduce your risk for a range of debilitating diseases – and how to get your sceptical friends and family on board.
Recommended sugar limit
The WHO outlines that we should aim to keep our consumption of added sugars to no more than 10% of our total dietary intake. This is because excess sugar has been directly proven to cause obesity and heart disease, and with 1.9 million people living with the former, we’ve got a crisis on our hands.
It’s especially important to note that this 10% recommendation doesn’t apply to children under 2 years of age, who should have no added sugars in their diet. This is because it can be detrimental to their development and puts them at greater risk for obesity, plus research shows they have a stronger taste for sugar than adults, making it easier for them to form addictions. With their underdeveloped brains, kids have less self-control, and consuming sugar at this age can set them up for future struggles with their health.
But it’s not just bad for kids – adults are struggling with growing rates of heart disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is because the fructose in these added sugars cannot be broken down by the body and instead require the liver to metabolise it. When we consume too much fructose – which we absolutely are, with Aussies taking in 15 teaspoons of the stuff every day – the liver gets overwhelmed and, as a result, we increase our risk for metabolic syndrome and all the diseases associated with it. Let’s take a look at non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – this condition is at the heart of a rapidly growing health crisis. Affecting quarter of the population, this is no small matter. Your sceptical friends may be surprised to hear that just because they don’t drink alcohol, they can still end up with fatty liver disease. In fact, the non-alcoholic form of this disease is projected to become the become the leading cause of cirrhosis in the next 10 years.
So, the WHO is onto something when they warn against overloading on sugar. But it’s worth noting these recommendations don’t include the sugars occurring naturally in fruits and veggies – so don’t go cutting out these nutritional powerhouses. But highly-processed foods like confectionery, cereals, some breads and baked goods contain the added sugars that the WHO implores us to go easy on.
Cut your intake further where possible
The WHO is also recommending that the 10% guideline is worth cutting down further to 5%, to reap additional benefits to our health. After all, sugar offers little to no nutritional gains, and happens to be a highly addictive substance. Studies show sugar triggers our brain’s reward system and provokes a stronger response than cocaine. This is because it causes the release of dopamine in the brain, and when we consume sugar in excess, it can be hard to break to cycle of cravings and binging. So, if you can reduce your intake – do it.
The American Heart Association is another major medical agency that agrees with this conservative approach – suggesting that cutting back on the sweet stuff slashes our risk of obesity and heart disease. Their recommendation is no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women, and 9 teaspoons for men. That’s 24 and 36 grams, respectively.
What to tell the sceptics
Everything in moderation: Tell your friends and family they can still enjoy their favourite foods in moderation. Plus, they can make a few simple swaps – if they’re chocolate lovers, tell them to pick a brand with a higher cocoa content, and if they’re hooked on cakes and muffins, get them into some low-sugar recipes which taste just as good.
Whole over processed: Sticking to whole foods over highly-processed products allows you to know exactly what’s going into your food and cut out those excess sugars. These processed foods are bursting with sugars and other additives, from muesli bars to bread – it can be hard to avoid. But by choosing minimally-processed foods and foods in their whole form, you’ll easy stay well under the recommended limit. For example, try switching your cereals and muesli bars for whole oats, nuts and seeds and in place of juice, pick up whole fruits.
- Fresh fruits and veggies: The fibre in whole fruits and veggies slow the absorption of the sugar – this is why the WHO doesn’t recommend cutting these foods out.
- Whole grains: Swap your white bread and white rice for wholemeal bread, quinoa, brown rice and millet. They’ve got fibre, slow-release energy and they won’t spike your blood sugars.
- Legumes and nuts: Chickpeas, lentils and mung beans are nutrient-dense and filling options to swap your processed soups or protein bars with. Nuts are another great whole food which are perfect for snacking, so swap out your potato chips and pick up some walnuts and peanuts for a crunchy, satisfying snack.
- Drinks: Water is best, but tea, milk and smoothies can also be a good addition if you keep the added sugars out and use whole ingredients in your smoothies.
- Dairy and eggs: These products can provide beneficial nutrients, and granted there are no added sugars in the brands you choose, they can make for a good addition to a balanced diet. Choose natural, plain dairy and ditch the more heavily-processed flavoured yoghurts.
Need a little extra help fighting those sugar cravings? It’s hard, we know – even more so when you try to go it alone. With support and health professionals onside, you’ll be better prepared to quit sugar and make it stick. That’s why we’re hosting the 8-Week Program for everyone out there looking to take their health back into their own hands.
How does the 8-Week Program work?
When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
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