By Katie Ayling
The idea that sugar is ‘empty’ calories comes from the fact that sugar is a carbohydrate that contains no other vitamins or minerals. It is then assumed that the more sugar you had the less vitamins and minerals you have… This is just simply not true.
Sugar is a carbohydrate however it is also a key ingredient in many foods that provide us with essential vitamins and minerals. It is often forgotten that we eat foods not nutrients. There are a wide range of healthy foods that sugar helps us to enjoy or otherwise we would not eat them.
Take for example vegetables… Is it best that you sweeten with a bit of honey or teriyaki sauce or not eat them at all..?
If you already enjoy and eat these foods without adding sugar that’s perfect however the reality is most of us are not eating enough core foods such as vegetables. The latest National nutrition survey showed that just 6.8% of the population met the recommended usual intake of vegetables.
Let’s imagine a life without sugar… it is likely to be bland and so unappealing we wouldn’t be able to sustain it for very long. Another example is yoghurt; sugar is added to many types of yoghurt. Without it, yoghurt would be sour and we might be less likely to pick one up for our daily lunchbox.
So what does the research have to say about this..? Research shows that most people get the right amount of vitamins and minerals even though they have different sugar intakes. Of course not everyone will get enough of everything for example most people do not get enough vitamin D but this doesn’t have much to do with sugar.
Experts from the European Food Safety Authority said that “Observed negative associations between added sugar intake and micronutrient density of the diet are mainly related to patterns of intake of the foods from which added sugars in the diet are derived rather than to intake of added sugars per se”. This again comes back to the point that we eat foods not nutrients.
Think of it this way the people who have poorer diets (low vitamin and mineral intake) are not consuming sugar with healthy foods (sugar sprinkled over porridge) but instead nutrient poor foods (sugar in cake). It is important to consider the whole food that is being chosen rather just a nutrient.
The short and sweet of it is sugar can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet. It can help us make healthy food choices by making nutrient-packed foods more enjoyable and allow us to eat a wide range of healthy foods.
The key is to focus on the overall calories in your diet rather than a single nutrient, include variety and exercise regularly.