6 things you didn't know about sugar

Dunking a sugar cubes into a cup of tea Senior Dietitian Victoria Taylor answers questions about sugar, from its various names to whether honey is healthier.

1. Is sugar bad for me?

There’s nothing wrong with some sugar. However, diets that are high in sugar tend to be higher in energy (calories) too, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. We should try to get most of our carbohydrates from starchy, rather than sugary, sources; the body breaks down starchy carbohydrates less quickly, giving a slower release of energy.

2. How much is too much?

Free or added sugar shouldn’t make up more than 5 per cent of the calories we get from food and drink, which is about 30g a day for adults. In the UK, dietary surveys show on average we are exceeding these recommendations.

  • See our recipe finder for heart-healthy recipes with full nutrition information.

3. Where does this sugar come from?

The top sources of sugar in our diets are table sugar, preserves and soft drinks. As well as sugary fizzy drinks, flavoured waters and fruit juices can have sugar added to them. Confectionery (sweets and chocolates), biscuits, buns and cakes are also big contributors.

4. Which types of sugar should I avoid?

It’s added sugars we need to cut down on

Mainly, it’s added sugars we need to cut down on, as these add energy to our diets but nothing else. Naturally occurring sugars usually come with some additional nutritional benefits, like vitamins and minerals. However, with fruit juices, you still need to be careful.

The energy is higher in a glass of juice than in a single portion of fruit, as it takes several fruits to make a glass of juice. It’s recommended we stick to one 150ml portion of fruit juice in a day.

  • The eatwell plate shows the balance of different foods to include in a healthy diet.

5. How can I tell how much sugar is in my food?

Front-of-pack labels will tell you the total sugar content, and if it’s greater than 22.5g per 100g or there is more than 27g in one portion, then the product is high in sugar. You also need to check the ingredients list to see whether sugars have been added to your food or if they are naturally occurring. The higher up the list the added sugars are, the more there are.

6. Are there particular types I should watch out for?

Sugars have a variety of names. Anything ending with an ‘ose’, such as fructose, glucose, dextrose, is an added sugar. Beware of the addition of ingredients like concentrated apple or grape juice, honey, syrup and nectar.

Although they may sound more natural, they still count as added sugar. From a health perspective, opting for brown or white sugar makes no difference.

More useful information