Watch: What are free sugars?

We all know we need to limit the sugar in our diet, but what exactly are 'free' sugars and how do we make sure we don't consume too many? Our animation explains all. 

What are free sugars?

We used to think the only problem with sugar was its effect on our teeth. But extra sugar means extra calories and eating too many calories could lead to obesity, which raises your risk of heart disease and other conditions. 

To avoid those extra calories we need to watch out for free sugars.

When fruit is turned into fruit juice, the sugars come out of their cells and become free sugars

Free sugar is what we call any sugar added to a food or drink. Or the sugar that is already in honey, syrup and fruit juice. These are free because they're not inside the cells of the food we eat. 

The sugars found in fruit, vegetables and milk don't seem to have a negative effect on our health, and they come with extra nutrients, such as fibre.

But when fruit is turned into fruit juice, the sugars come out of their cells and become free sugars. The fibre is lost and it's easier to consume extra sugar without realising. You wouldn't eat four oranges in a row but you might drink their juice in one glass of orange juice without feeling full.

How much free sugar should I be having?

The government recommends that free sugars make up no more than 5% of our daily calories. But right now the average UK adult is eating twice as much. Most of that comes from soft drinks and fruit juices, sugars that we add to food and drink, including jams and chocolate spread, biscuits, pastries and cakes.

Don't add sugar to your tea or coffee, and avoid sugary snacks or stick to small portions

Adults and children aged over 11 should eat no more than around 30g of free sugars a day. A standard chocolate bar equals 25g of free sugar, 150ml of fruit juice equals 12g of free sugar and a 330ml can of cola equals 35g of free sugar.

How do I consume less free sugar?

Choose sugar-free versions of soft drinks and stick to no more than one glass if you drink juice. Don't add sugar to your tea or coffee, and avoid sugary snacks or stick to small portions.

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