Sugar is a naturally occurring product which is found in vegetables, fruit, some grain products and dairy products too. We often crave sugar because it supplies our bodies with much needed energy. If we were to get our daily requirements of sugar just from eating natural products it would be hard to exceed our body’s requirements. Just looking at the amount of sugar present in 3 key fruits gives you an idea. For 100 grams of oranges there are only 9.35 grams of natural sugar while apples contain 10.39 grams and bananas have 12.23 grams.
Because your body craves sugar, agricultural practices over time have developed productive ways of growing and harvesting plants that are high in sugar. They extract the product from plants resulting in pure sugar. The two main plants are sugar cane and sugar beet. Vast plantations provide this raw material which is transformed into the bags of sugar you find in the supermarket.
If you crave sugar you don’t need to eat 100 apples to get 100 grams as you can consume it without having to eat the fleshy part of a fruit. Apart from the fact that pure sugar has little nutritional value apart from energy, your body apart won’t tell you when you have eaten too much. When you consume more than you need you will put on weight. Sugar should only make up 5-10 percent of your calorie intake.
What products contain added sugar?
Sugar is added to processed foods and drinks to both improve their shelf life and their flavour. So it’s found in bakery products such as biscuits and bread, jam, cordials and soft drinks. It is also used when fermented to produce products such as beer, wine and spirits.
Too much sugar can damage teeth and overall health
You need just a small amount of sugar to ensure survival but too much can have a serious effect on both the health of your teeth and your health overall. Your mouth is full of bacteria, most of which are quite natural and do no harm but there are some that feeds off any sugar present in your mouth which in turn creates a build-up of acid in your mouth. This process takes place in the plaque which is the sticky layer found on the teeth formed by the bacteria feeding off the sugar.
A by product of bacteria is lactic acid, which slowly erodes the enamel on your teeth making your teeth thinner than they should be. Eventually, small holes develop in the enamel called cavities and if they are not treated they grow and become so big that the only solution is a tooth extraction. This can all be avoided by limiting sugar intake and regularly flossing and brushing your teeth.
It’s not just your teeth that are damaged by too much sugar but as your body hasn’t the capacity to efficiently process excessive amounts of sugar so it can lead to the development of serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
How to keep your sugar levels down
- Choose food such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein.
- Reduce your consumption of bakery products and sweetened dairy products
- Substitute sugary drinks for water
- Reduce your intake of processed foods.
Don’t forget to attend twice yearly check-ups with your dentist to ensure you have no early signs of cavity development and to get your teeth professionally cleaned.