Sugar is an addictive carbohydrate found in food that is a rich source of energy. Our bodies break down carbohydrates into simple sugars such as glucose, which is our most readily available energy source.
Some sugars are naturally occurring such as sugars found in fruit, vegetables and dairy, however some foods have sugar added to them for flavour enhancement, texture, colour and to improve shelf life. One gram of carbohydrate (or sugar) provides 17 kJ on energy. The Nutrient Reference Value for sugar should be limited to 90 grams a day or no more than 364 calories of sugar (for the average adult).
Sweeteners are artificial ingredients that are added to foods, instead of sugar as they have a low calorific equivalent. This means they contain less or zero calories so do not provide energy. Anything that is artificial is a bit concerning for some consumers as they usually contain some kind of chemical or ingredient that is not natural. Some examples of sweeteners include Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose and Sucralose and these are available in packet, tablet, and granulated and liquid form. Common artificial sweeteners include equal, nutrasweet and sweet’n low.
When wanting to consume a low sugar diet it is recommend using natural/plant sweeteners such as stevia. Stevia is a naturally occurring no calorie sweetener that is not artificial like those mentioned above.
The Benefits of using sweeteners instead of sugars include:
- Low calorie (will not contribute to weight gain)
- Diabetes friendly option
The Hazards of using sweeteners instead of sugars include:
- Lack of nutritional value
- Side Effects
Although we do all have a sweet tooth it is best to limit/avoid adding sugars or sweeteners in our diet. If needed natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup could be used, however still in limited amounts.