Sugars are an important source of energy that we all need to go about our daily lives. The most important sugar in the body is glucose. Our brain requires around 130 grams of sugar (glucose) per day to keep functioning. You’ll find glucose in all sorts of foods including fruit, vegetables and honey. The recommended Reference Intake for total sugars as part of your diet is 90g a day for adults. This Reference Intake is based on the requirements for an average female with no special dietary requirements and an assumed energy intake of 2,000 calories.

The other most common sugars found in food and drinks are:

  • Sucrose – found naturally in fruit and vegetables and also extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet to create table sugar (the sugar you buy in the supermarket!)
  • Fructose and glucose – found in fruit, vegetables and honey
  • Lactose – found in milk and dairy products, like cheese and yogurt
  • Maltose – made from grains, it is found in malted drinks and beer.

The different sugars are broken down and used in different ways but, most importantly, the body doesn’t distinguish between sugars used in manufacturing or in the kitchen, and those sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables. For example, sucrose in an apple is broken down in exactly the same way as the sucrose in your sugar bowl.

The key to a healthy balanced diet is balance and having the right amount of energy (calories) from a variety of food and drink sources. A balanced diet is the best way to achieve the protein, energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre that we all need to live a healthy lifestyle.

With so much conflicting information it can be confusing to know how you and your family can make healthier lifestyle choices. While your doctor can advise you on the best diet for your individual needs, these tips may be useful to think about as part of planning family meals.