As reported recently in the news and media, we are often unaware of the amount of sugar in our diet.
Action on Sugar, a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health, has reported that some seemingly 'healthy' breakfast cereals and fruit juices are laden with sugar, increasing the risk of tooth decay and being overweight. As many as 14 out of 50 cereals tested contained at least 33.3g sugar per 100g – approximately 8 teaspoons! Similarly, they found that over a quarter of children’s fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies contained at least five teaspoons of sugar per 200ml glass!
The findings of this study have come at a time when sugar has been highlighted as a contributing factor to obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
Always read the label
Most food and drink have a label on the packaging giving the product’s nutritional content. This can tell you whether the product is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturates, sugar and salt per 100g, so you can easily compare similar products.
For a healthier breakfast, switch to cereals with little or no added sugar, such as porridge or wholewheat cereals. Use a sugar-free or reduced-sugar version of your usual spread on wholemeal or granary toast, and watch out for the sugar content in low-fat yoghurt.
Minimise the risk of tooth decay
Sugary food and drink can cause tooth decay, especially if you eat them between meals. Even pure unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so is best drunk only at meal times to minimise damage to your teeth. Fizzy drinks, which combine sugar with acid, can contribute to dental erosion, and even diet brands are harmful. Still water is the best drink for teeth; milk can neutralise acids in your mouth, but should not be drunk at bedtime. Chewing a sugar-free chewing gum containing xylitol for twenty minutes after a meal can help neutralise acids and reduce plaque.
Visit your dentist for regular check-ups
You should visit your dentist every 6 months for a preventive approach to keep your teeth and gums in excellent condition, and keep treatment to a minimum. Working in partnership with your dentist, dental hygienists will closely monitor the health of your mouth, thoroughly deep clean your teeth and offer advice on how to maintain good oral hygiene at home.
Being aware of ‘hidden’ sugars in your diet and keeping your teeth clean and gums disease-free are essential for your long-term health.