Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A spoonful of sugar

Table sugar - also known as sucrose - is a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates are quickly and easily broken down by digestion, ready for use as energy. South African table sugar is extracted from sugar cane. In other parts of the world, sugar beets are used.

One teaspoon of sugar contains 16kcal/67kj, give or take a grain. So if you take one spoon of sugar in each cup of tea or coffee, and you drink 4-5 cups of tea or coffee in a day, that's 80kcal/336kj - about the equivalent of a slice of wholegrain bread. At least the bread supplies nutrients - you won't find any of those in sugar.

Avoiding sugar can be problematic. Although we can wean ourselves off it in tea and coffee, its distinctive qualities make it very palatable, and it is particularly useful in commercial food production and preparation. Sugar absorbs and retains moisture easily, that's what keeps your bread and muffins fresh: it helps prevent the growth of moulds and bacteria in jams and marmalades: it helps retain the natural colour in fruits when they are canned.

Sugar is a major component of cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, ice cream, cordials, colas and alcohol. It's even in tomato sauce and canned baked beans!

And don't we just love it? Sugar is sweet, and saying the word 'sweet' makes us smile. Try saying it in front of the mirror; the corners of your mouth turn up, don't they? But too much sugar can cause overweight and tooth decay, just for starters, and neither of those makes anyone smile! It can also blunt the appetite for 'proper' food, and send susceptible kids bouncing off the walls.

How much is too much? This is an interesting question. I have literally dozens of books on healthy eating and weight loss. None of them gives a suggested daily portion size for sugar. And most of them avoid even mentioning sugar! It seems it is usually included in the fats and oils food group, and the suggested daily serving of fats and oils (and now sugar, too) is a maximum of 6 teaspoons.

Rather satisfy your need for sweetness with a piece of fresh fruit.


Roberto said...

You sure know your stuff, Sphinx. I have been battling the bulge ever since giving rugby away, 20 years ago - golf, by the way, just doesn't cut it for a vigorous exercise.
My biggest problem with sugar is 5 tspns per mug of coffee, or tea! Yes, I know you are shuddering, but I can't get used to the taste of a piece of fruit in my cuppa! haha.

I love your blog!

Sphinx said...

so glad to see you back, Bob! Please try and cut back on that sugar - 5tsp per mug!!! and how many mugs do you drink per day? You probably are pretty sedentary, too, which makes you a strong candidate for late-onset diabetes.
Golf can be good cardio exercise - provided you are not just strolling between drives (or using a cart!)
Take good care of yourself. I love getting your comments and reading your posts on Roberto's Report.