Sugar Wars

Sugar, for some odd reason has been singularly blamed to be the culprit behind our expanding waistlines, cardiovascular and chronic diseases and oh of course, child hyperactivity. Media has been sensationalising sugar as toxic or the metabolic poison.


Basically, food manufacturers have been isolating, extracting and manipulating starches and sugars and then adding sugar to foods to enhance flavour, texture, colour, sweetness, shelf-life etc. And the above has somehow created a public opinion that refined sugar added to foods is evil!!!


Moderation consumption of sugary foods forms a part of a healthy, nutrient rich, balanced diet.The issue with sugar is not one of “good versus bad” but rather one of “some versus too much.''

It’s nonsense to talk about sugar as being the root of all our health problems. We cannot talk about sugar as a singular compound or lump all fats together, or pick on carbs.

What is sugar?

Carbohydrate, in its basic form. Table sugar is sucrose formed from glucose and fructose.The simpler the carbohydrate the sweeter the taste, complex carbohydrates are not so sweet. Sugars are simply the single or double saccharides that are found in foods, mostly plant foods.

Natural Sugars: are naturally present in foods such as fructose

Refined Sugars: are formed by refining and processing starches, how your table sugar is processed from starches in sugar cane or sugar beets.

Added Sugars: are natural or refined sugars added to foods such as your table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

So is refined sugar the culprit monster?

Now, at their core refined sugars is a combination of natural sugars such as fructose and glucose. The only difference here is when they are eaten naturally in the unprocessed whole foods, these sugars and starches are diluted, distributed and balanced by a combination of other nutrients.The refining process destroys the balance leading to the food being high in energy but low in nutrient density.

But that does not make refined sugar bad for us! Sugar is sugar is sugar – empty calories that aren’t necessary, but that does not make it harmful. For those who are eating a diverse and nutrient dense diet, covering your favourite wheat pancakes in syrup is okay and does not pose any clear or well established risk to your health.

To sum up, weight gain is caused by eating more energy than is used up in physical activity. So to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, we need to be eating fewer kilojoules (including watching portion sizes) and moving more.When it comes to sugar, as a registered dietitian I recommend limiting those foods that are high in added sugar and low in nutrition – such as carbonated soft drinks, confectionery, cakes and biscuits.

In all fairness, nearly anything in moderation can potentially be harmful in excess – and sugar is no different.

An Registered Dietitian can provide expert nutrition and dietary advice including advice on the role of sugars in a healthy diet.