A Sweeter Life: Sugar & Stevia
November 16, 2017
A Sweeter Life: Sugar & Stevia
 by Alan Barclay, APD 

What is our daily sugar intake and what should it be?

According to the Australian institute of health and welfare, Australians are consuming an average of 60g of free sugars each day, the equivalent of more than 14 teaspoons of white sugar (1). This is more than the world health organisation’s free sugar intake recommendation of less than 10% of their total energy intake, which is roughly 50 g or less than 13 teaspoons per day for adults.
 
Most concerning is the fact that more than 90 per cent (on average 54 grams or less than 13 teaspoons) (2) of Australian’s free sugars intake comes from added sugars, which are sugars added to food during processing or preparation, such as sugar added to tea and coffee and in baking. Added sugars are not naturally occurring, such as those sugars found in fruit and milk.
 
So it’s easy to see how small changes in our diet and behaviour, such as substituting sugars for alternative sweeteners, could have a significant impact on the nation’s added sugars consumption.
 

How can I use alternative sweeteners?

The good thing is alternative sweeteners are extremely versatile and can be easily incorporated into everyday life. Think about the times during the day you would normally reach for the sugar jar and instead think about using an alternative sweetener.

For example, do you take sugar in your coffee or tea? If so, try using a stevia extract based sweetener to add some sweetness to your hot beverage. Or if you enjoy dabbling in some weekend baking try a natural sweetener blend, for example raw cane sugar mixed with stevia. This will perform just like sugar, tastes great but with less calories.
 

Are sweeteners bad for your health?

Sweeteners often receive a bad reputation and it is a highly misunderstood category. Stevia based sweeteners are the new kids on the block when it comes to alternative sweeteners
 
Stevia extracts are removed from the leaves of the stevia plant by traditional water extraction methods which do not alter the composition of the plant’s sweet compounds and are 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar but without the calories. Stevia based sweeteners can be used in a variety of ways including in tea and coffee and in a wide range of recipes.
 

And how do they taste? 

When it comes to using alternative sweeteners, it’s all about getting the quantities right. Natural stevia based sweeteners come in stick form to give you the perfect amount to add sweetness to hot drinks. For baking purposes, using a raw cane sugar and stevia blend will ensure your sweet treat still tastes great whilst lowering your sugar intake by 50%.
 

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and welfare https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/overview
2. Australian Health Survey: Consumption of added sugars, 2011-12, 2016; 4364.0.55.011


About Alan Barclay

Dr Alan Barclay is an accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist with over 22 years’ experience in clinical dietetics, public health and academia.
 
Alan is the author and co-author of a number of titles including The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners and Reversing Diabetes.  Alan has a PhD from the University of Sydney and his thesis addressed the association of glycemic carbohydrate (sugars and starches) and the risk of developing lifestyle related chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. Portions of this features in internationally renowned nutrition and diabetes journals and at global conferences.
 
In his role as an official media spokesperson for Dietitians Association of Australia, Alan has had extensive experience presenting on television, radio and in the print and on-line media. Not one to shy away from controversial topics, Alan is eager to bust myths around food and nutrition, particularly when it comes to carbohydrates and sweeteners.

Alan has previously held roles at the Glycemic Index Foundation where he was CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, and was Head of Research at Diabetes Australia (NSW) for nearly 16 years.

 

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