Today’s post isn’t fodmap related but it is on general healthy eating. Anyone who saw the Great British Bake Off last night will know that they had a free from show where they baked goods which were sugar free, dairy free and gluten free. The first challenge on the show involved the contestants baking a sugar free cake. I was excited to see what all the bakers would come up with to sweeten the cakes however my excitement quickly turned into disappointment when all the contestants resorted to using honey, agave syrup and maple syrup to sweeten their cakes. The term sugar describes monosaccharides and disaccharides . Monosaccharides include glucose, fructose and galactose. Disaccharides include maltose, sucrose and lactose (SACN, 2015). In my understanding a sugar free diet would attempt to limit the intake of the above mentioned sugars however all the contestants substituted table sugar for honey, agave syrup and maple syrup. Honey is rich in fructose and contains small amounts of glucose, maple syrup has a high content of sucrose and agave syrup has a very high content of fructose (Berg et al, 2006). All of these ingredients are rich in free sugars. Honey, agave syrup and maple syrup are sweeter than table sugar therefore less would be needed in a recipe reducing the overall calorific value and amount of free sugars, however it would make the bakes lower in sugar as opposed to sugar free. A recent report by SACN (2015) has recommended that free sugars should account to no more than 5% of an individual’s daily energy intake. This translates to approximately (BDA, 2015):
- 19g or 5 sugar cubes for children aged 4 to 6
- 24g or 6 sugar cubes for children aged 7 to 10
- 30g or 7 sugar cubes for 11 years and over
What are free sugars?
Free sugars are sugars which are added to food e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose or those naturally present in honey, syrups such as agave and maple syrup and fruit juices but excludes lactose in milk and milk products.
Why should we limit the intake of free sugars?
- A high intake of free sugars increases the risk of tooth decay.
- The higher the intake of free sugars, the higher the energy intake therefore increases the risk of weight gain.
- A high consumption of high sugar beverages result in weight gain and increases in BMI. Just one high sugar beverage can meet or exceed the recommendation limit for free sugars set by SACN (2015).
- The consumption of high sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (BDA, 2015; SACN, 2015).
In conclusion, swapping to honey, maple syrup or agave syrup in baking can help reduce the overall calorie content and amount of free sugars. However, while honey, maple syrup and agave syrup come from natural sources it does not make them healthy and their intake should be limited. Finally, for a sugar free bake limit the use of free sugars and try to use the natural sugars present in fruits and natural sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol instead.
- British Dietetic Association (BDA), 2015. SACN Report: Drastic Action on Sugar Consumption Recommended. Available online at: https://www.bda.uk.com/news/view?id=75&x=news/list [Accessed on 2/09/2015].
- Berg A, Perkins T and M Isselhardt, 2006. Sugar profiles of maple syrup grades. Maple syrup digest 18A(4).
- SACN, 2015. Carbohydrates and Health. UK: Public Health England.