The Sweetest Thing

Sugar addiction is a health hazard, but thankfully, you don’t have to swear off cupcakes forever.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Sugar addiction is a health hazard, but thankfully, you don’t have to swear off cupcakes forever.
CLickRF, Corbis, TPG/Click Photos
CLickRF, Corbis, TPG/Click Photos

Here’s the good news: you can be healthy and eat cake! Health experts say we’re allowed to have a moderate amount of refined sugar every day – up to 10 percent of our total energy intake. So, for a reasonably active woman in her twenties, that’s around 880kJ worth of processed sweetness – equal to 13.75 teaspoons of refined sugar. Sounds like a lot, huh? But before you start celebrating, here’s the bad news: most of us already consume way more than that amount.


You probably already know that excess sugar increases insulin levels and that makes it difficult to lose fat. What you might not know is that overindulging can also lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, similar to what occurs in people who drink excessive amounts of booze. Dr Kerin O’Dea, Professor of Population Health and Nutrition at the University of South Australia, explains that the culprit is fructose in its refined form (different from naturally occurring fructose in fresh fruits and veggies – this is an important distinction!). Refined sugar is made of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. “Glucose is a very good energy source. It’s important for the brain, heart and muscles. Whereas fructose has to be processed in the liver before it can be converted into glucose and used as an energy source.” So, if you’re going OTT with sweetened processed food and drinks, your liver is going to get a battering.


Luckily, tastebuds are highly adaptable, so it’s possible to wean yourself off a sugar addiction. Have two sugars with your coffee? Cut it down to one, and then eventually none. Love soft drinks? Let your taste buds get used to soda water with a dash of fresh lime. You could also:

1 Avoid “low fat” processed foods

Dr Adam Fraser, co-author of The Good Enough Diet, says “Remember, low-fat foods tend to be high in sugar to make them more palatable.”

2 Eat fruit instead

“Although fruit has natural sugar, it also contains fibre, which helps to curb the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Plus, it has nutrients, vitamins and minerals,” says naturopathic doctor Laura Brass.

3 Stop stocking sweets

“Buying a portion-controlled treat, like a fun-size chocolate, is a great idea,” Fraser advises.

4 Take a chromium supplement

“The mineral chromium actually improves your blood sugar regulation, so it can help curb sugar cravings,” explains Brass.

5 Eat protein with sugar

“Protein will help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream and will also help sustain your energy levels for longer and prevent a major sugar crash,” says Brass.


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What’s Your Sugar Intake?

We’ve done the math so you know how much refined sugar you’re consuming. Remember, the average 20-something girl should have a maximum of 13.75 teaspoons a day!

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