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Dublin: 19 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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Nutrition myth of the week: Sugar is bad for your health*

Dr. Richelle Flanagan explains why not all sugar is bad for your health.

One can of coke contains nearly 10 spoons of sugar.
One can of coke contains nearly 10 spoons of sugar.

YES, THE ASTERISK. That opener obviously comes with strict terms and conditions, but it’s not all doom and gloom for sugar-lovers.

Dr. Richelle Flanagan, a consultant dietitian at nutritionwise.ie, makes the argument that all sugar is not bad your health because there are many different types and all sugars shouldn’t be tarred with the one brush either.

“There is table sugar, which is processed, as well as the natural sugars in food such as fruit (fructose), carbohydrates (glucose) and milk (lactose),” she explains.

“The natural sugars are important sources of energy for our body and brain, so using a combination of these foods throughout the day fuels our energy needs as well as providing many other health benefits.”

Some of these benefits include bone health (provided by the calcium in milk), iron absorption (provided by vitamins such as Vitamin C in fruit and vegetables) and preventing anemia (provided by iron in our wholegrain breads and cereals).

“So all sugar is not bad for your health,” she reinforces.

Too much sugar is not healthy, for sure, but what is ‘too much’ sugar?

“The World Health Organisation have the guideline of too much added sugars as being 10% your calorie intake – around 14 teaspoons sugar per day so if you take more than this a day you need to start cutting back.”

One can of coke contains just under 10 spoons, while another less well-known product that contains excessive sugar is smoothies. And Dr.Flanagan doesn’t, er, sugar coat her thoughts on the subject.

“Avoid the 500ml smoothies,” she says.

“One serving of fruit is considered 100ml of fruit juice but 500ml is not considered to be 5 servings. This is because it means people are taking in large amounts of fructose in one sitting, which is not healthy and also means people are not getting all the other benefits of eating the whole fruits.

“If you’re making a smoothie – then add some natural yoghurt to protect your teeth, add in some porridge oats to reduce the glycaemic index and a smaller amount of fruit juice to sweeten it up and you have a healthy breakfast on the go.

“Alternatively you can just add more vegetables to your smoothies to reduce the fructose. But don’t forget, nothing replaces eating the wholefood 5-a-day.”

Read: Can you spare 15 minutes? Our new 6-week fitness programme will kick-start your Autumn

Read: All the best pictures as athletes brave the elements to complete Dublin City Triathlon

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Brian Canty

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