We eat far too much sugar in our diets, especially free sugars. This can make you gain weight, leading to high blood pressure.
It can also lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
See how you can cut back.
Why is too much sugar bad for your health?
Foods with added sugar tend to be high in calories but often provide very little or no nutritional value. The extra energy can make you gain weight which can raise your blood pressure. It can also lead to diabetes. Raised blood pressure and diabetes both raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if you have both at the same time.
Aside from your weight and heart health, eating and drinking too much sugar also causes tooth decay.
What are free sugars?
Free sugars are the sugars that are referred to when people talk about eating too much sugar. They are the sugars that are added to foods or drinks. They are also found in honey and syrups, and in unsweetened fruit juice.
The main sources of free sugar in our diets are:
- table sugar
- jams and preserves
- confectionery – sweets and chocolate
- fruit juice and soft drinks
- biscuits, buns and cakes
Sugar can also be hidden in less obvious places, such as:
- alcoholic drinks
- savoury chutneys and condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise and salad dressings
- ready meals
The sugars found in fruit and milk are not free sugars.
How much sugar is too much?
The government recommends that only 5% of our daily energy intake comes from free sugars. For adults, this is the equivalent of 30g, which is seven teaspoons or seven cubes. Most sugary fizzy drinks contain more than this in a can.
We eat far too much sugar in our diets, especially free sugars.
How to cut down on sugar
Cutting down on sugar can seem like a challenge, but there are a number of little changes you can make that can make a big difference.
- If you often drink sugar-sweetened drinks, swap to water or sugar-free options. Try flavouring your water with pieces of fruit and herbs, such as cucumber and mint, or lemon and pineapple.
- Avoid breakfast cereals with added sugars, or adding extra sugar on top. Instead, add some fresh or frozen berries to naturally sweeten your breakfast and count towards your 5-a-day.
- Top your toast with mashed banana instead of jam or honey.
- When cooking, use less sugar and add flavour with spices such as ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Avoid ready-made sauces such as pasta sauce, as they tend to have sugar added to them.
- Seemingly healthy snacks such as cereal bars can often have lots of added sugar in them, so check the labels – anything ending in ‘ose’ or labelled as syrup or molasses is added sugar.
Switch to less sugar
Download our free FoodSwitch app which can help you make healthier choices when shopping. By scanning the barcode of a product the app will tell you whether it is red, amber or green in sugars and suggest similar but healthier alternatives
Learn more about sugar, how to eat less, and the work being done to reduce the amount that’s added to our food at Action on Sugar.