Sugar has become the ‘enemy’ of the moment with revelations of its consequences taking the world by storm. So, it was no surprise when Jamie Oliver picked his latest battle and decided to wage a war against sugar.
Two weeks ago Channel 4 broadcasted ‘Sugar Rush’ – a documentary following Jamie as he investigates the effects of sugar on health and proposes a solution to all of our sugar-related problems.
The programme is full of shocking statistics bound to put you off even your favourite sweets: from the staggering 7,000 leg/foot amputations that have already taken place in the UK this year from diabetes to the £30million that the NHS spends each year on removing rotten teeth of children. Perhaps more astounding is that the rising epidemic of type-2 diabetes is costing the NHS an additional £8.8billion a year. These are both largely preventable costs which we need to act upon urgently for the sake of saving the NHS, as well as ourselves!
One of the main issues when it comes to sugar is that most people are unaware that they’re even eating it. Sweets and cake aside, there are so many foods which you would assume are healthy but are in fact packed with sugar. Often even reading the ingredients is useless as there are so many alternative words used for sugar (diastatic malt, dextrin, ethyl maltol etc.). With the help of a dietician, Jamie takes a typical day’s food consisting of cereal with yoghurt and berries, canned tomato soup and bread for lunch and a stir fry for dinner – all fairly healthy meals on the surface. However, he reveals that by eating this you would be eating 36 tsp. of sugar – over five times the recommended allowance.
You may be surprised by the sugar content of the following:
- Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and skimmed milk – 11 tsp. sugar
- A portion of Heinz tomato soup – 4 tsp. sugar
- 15ml Heinz ketchup – 1 tsp. sugar
- 100g Kellog’s Raisin Bran Crunch – 20g sugar
- 100g Special K Red Berries – 10g sugar
- 1 pouch of Capri Sun 25% less sugar – 18g sugar
- 1 can Red Bull – 27g sugar
- 1 bottle of Vitamin Water Jackfruit and Guava – 33g sugar
So, Jamie proposes that we introduce a 20% tax on sugary drinks in the UK. He’s already implemented the tax in his own restaurants and is in discussion with other restaurants to follow his lead. He estimates that the tax could raise up to £1billion a year which he wants to invest entirely into our health system and schools – primarily funding lessons on cooking and nutrition. Jamie’s petition has over 100,000 signatures which means the government are obliged to consider the issue in parliament.
Whether tax is the best way to curb our sugar addiction is currently unclear. It will inevitably take more than this – for most people, it will require a huge lifestyle change – but a tax on sugary drinks is undeniably a step in the right direction.
Here are my top tips on how to avoid sugar:
- Read the labels! Look out for how many grams of added sugar is in the product you’re buying – anything more than 10g per 100g is considered a lot of sugar.
- Make soup and sauces from scratch
- Stick to complex carbohydrates by swapping white bread, pasta, rice etc. for the brown variety, sweet potato and quinoa – these take longer to digest as they are full of fibre so keep blood sugar levels stable
- Swap sugary breakfast cereals for those with no added sugar
- Avoid adding sugar to hot drinks (or stick to herbal tea)
- Increase your protein intake – protein foods keep you full for longer helping to manage cravings
- Limit fruit juice intake and avoid fizzy drinks
- Avoid processed foods – they’re full of hidden sugars.
So, tonight as we sit in our millions watching Great British Bake Off (a shameless ode to sugar), think twice before cracking open that can of fizzy drink, devouring a slice of cake with your tea or spooning a mountain of sugar into your coffee. Together, we can win this battle!
In the words of Jamie Oliver: “I’m doing it as a father and because every clever person that I have met realises we’re all aligned in the same catastrophe”. If government decide not to implement the tax, perhaps they will consider making Jamie Prime Minister!