Amenyah Seth, Consulting Dietician.
A Private Consultant, Health Blogger, and Author
CEO of Diet Care Clinic GH
An Affiliate of the Ghana Dietetic Association & Allied Health Professions Council
Phone: +233 (0) 244 832 997
Whatsapp: +233 (0) 203 940 947
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The average person in Ghana consumes around 18 teaspoons, or 71.14 grams, of added sugar per day, which far exceeds the recommended safe dose. Added sugars are sugars that are not naturally found in the food product but are consciously added during the food production, processing or preparation. If your diet is high in added sugar from the public health perspective, it can invite uninvited minor to severe health consequences such as potbelly (high intra-abdominal fat or central obesity), high blood uric acid (hyperuricemia), high blood triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) among others to the consumer. On the other side, the role of added sugars in food including taste has made it almost impossible to totally avoid it from food production, processing or preparation. On this account, the concern lies in knowing and adhering to the safe dose of sugars that one can take daily from the diet in other to avoid its attendant ill-health consequences.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a form of carbohydrates mostly monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, mannose, xylose, ribose, and galactose) and disaccharides (sucrose, maltose, lactose among others). These carbohydrates taste sweet and are often used in food preparation and processing to enhance their taste and possibly shelve life. They can occur naturally such as in fruits and milk or intentionally such as in sugar-sweetened beverages like the Coca Cola drink, pastries, and candies.
How much is just safe?
According to the American Heart Association, the safe amount of sugar one can take varies with respect to age and gender. Men should not consume more than 38 grams or 9 teaspoons of added sugar from all food sources in a day and women should not consume more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar from all sources in a day. Children between the ages of 2 and 18 should not take sugar from all sources more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons in a day.
How not to exceed the safe dose?
Owing to the premise that sugars are abundantly present in foods, it can be very challenging nowadays if not impossible to stick to the above safe dose recommendations for sugar. Therefore, in order to be able to stay within the recommended daily dose for sugar certain precautionary measures need to be followed. The following are just a few of them;
- Cutting down on the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)
Use water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages or carbonated soft drinks to quench thirst. Sugar-sweetened beverages are a great source of sugars. For example, 1 bottle; 300 mL equivalent of Coca Cola drink commonly called Coke comes with 32 g or over 7 teaspoons of sugar, Malta Guinness malt comes with 46 g or over 10 teaspoons of sugar per a can bottle (330 mL) whiles Rush energy drink comes with 42 g or over 9 teaspoons of sugar.
- Use diet drinks
Each time you take even 1 can or bottle of any of these SBBs, you would likely than not exceed the safe limit for your sugar intake. Use diet drinks in place of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages as much as possible. Diet drinks taste as sweet as sugar-sweetened beverages but contain non-caloric or non-nutritive sweeteners instead of sugars.
- Use NNS in place of sugar
Use FDA approved non-nutritive sweeteners in place of table sugar (sucrose) when you can.
- Measure the sugar you add to your food
Consciously measure the dose of sugar you add to your coffee and liquid-based foods. Remember that the commonly used spoon on the dining table called dessert spoon is 10 mL by volume and one dessert spoon of sugar is 2 teaspoons equivalent.
- Read food labels and check the Ingredients.
Look for added sugars in the ingredients list. The higher up added sugars are on the list, the more added sugar is in the product. Added sugars go by a lot of different names like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, and turbinado sugar. Added sugars hide in foods that you might not expect. They’re common in foods like pasta sauces, crackers, pizzas, “bofrot”, cakes and more.
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