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26/02/2017
BBC Radio 5 live

     

    By reporter Jo Black


    It was as I was rummaging round the back of my kitchen cupboards for a tub of glacé cherries, I realised I was struggling with this experiment.

    This was day four of the 'Reduce Your Sugar' challenge and I was desperate for a sweet kick. I don't even like glacé cherries on their own but I didn't have anything else in. As I checked the label for the sugar content I noticed they were out of date so they were promptly binned. The label had said 66.4 grams in every 100 grams but I had no idea what was natural sugar or what had been added. At the same time I was too hungry to get the scales and measure some out-of-date bright red cherries so I had an apple instead. My bad mood remained.

    For a week I have been trying to keep the 'added sugar' in my daily diet to 25 grams. Why do this? The World Health Organisation's (WHO) current recommendation is that sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake every day. But back in March, the WHO suggested that a reduction to 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. That's where the 25 grams comes from, so that's five or six teaspoons to you and me (depending on your spoons). The suggested limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

    I thought I'd been coping reasonably well with this reduction in sugar, although, I had a terrible start. I failed spectacularly on day one, a portion of apple crumble (larger than it should have been) and a sugary drink sent me soaring to 63.5 grams of added sugar - well over DOUBLE the experiment's target.

    Nigel Denby, a registered dietician, told me "You can't follow a sugar free diet because it would be imbalanced. You wouldn't get all your food groups in. You couldn't eat fruit and vegetables, you couldn't eat cereals, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes any dairy foods. They all contain natural sugars with a whole range of nutritional goodies; vitamins, minerals and fibre. The thing you're looking to cut down on is added sugar that you either add as the 'white stuff' to teas, coffees, cereals and baking at home or the sugar that's added to processed foods; confectionary, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks"

    Day two was Sunday. The bread I used for my toast had 1.6g of sugar a slice. Given Nigel's advice I thought I could dismiss it but when I scanned the ingredients I was horrified to see brown sugar listed. I'd have to count it, so I did. Hours later, for lunch, half a tub of fresh Sri Lankan chicken soup meant I had another 10 grams of sugar to add to my tally. 10 grams! Two teaspoons! Despite this, I hit the target that day but it meant huge plates of salad later.

    Nigel said I had to become "label savvy" which is good advice. However I quickly became confused. A breakdown of what was natural sugar and what was added sugar on the label would have clarified matters.

    Sweets are my Achilles heel. I absolutely love them and often try not to have them in the house. Nigel told me to think about one sweet equalling a teaspoon of sugar - visualising that did work but I really missed them over the course of the week.

    By day three and four, I was starting to eat too many bags of ready salted crisps. Three in one day! They're only 0.1 grams of sugar a bag, great for keeping your sugar consumption down but that's it! They gave me no other nutritional value and surely sent me down another unhealthy path?

    I found myself taking ages in the supermarket because I was reading labels and I found it really annoying having to weigh chocolate.

    I was surprised to find that I didn't feel tired and I had expected some sort of withdrawal type headaches - that didn't happen. But I was very irritable on day four. Related to sugar reduction? I don't know. I think if you're going to try an experiment like this, I think you'd have to do it as a whole family. Doing it alone may prove tricky. Y

    Reducing sugar is achievable but it is hard, we're all so used to it, addicted some would say. I think I could and should do this more often but you have to be mega organised and strong willed.

    So, my week's tally? After a shoddy start, I hit 25 grams or under on four days and went over on three, only by one gram on one of those days, I hasten to add.

    I didn't even lose any weight, in fact, I gained two pounds. That'll be the crisps!

    On Monday 5 May on BBC Radio 5 live there will be various reports about sugar throughout the day

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