The World Health  Organisation has issued a new guideline strongly recommending that we reduce our free sugar intake to no more than 10% of out total daily kilojoule intake.  This guideline is based on evidence that this level of intake and below reduces the risk of obesity and tooth decay. "Free" sugars refers to the sugars added to foods and drinks by manufacturers and those found in honey, syrups and juices. It does not refer to those found in fruit and vegetables or milk. Don't get confused by looking for foods containing 10g of sugar per 100g as that is 10% of the weight of the food .

The sweet syrups are often marketed as natural, they are mixtures of glucose and fructose and other sugars , which alters their rate of absorption.  Like sugar, the syrups still contain kilojoules and although some have some antioxidant properties,do not have significant nutritional value and are considered by nutritionists as " discretionary" food. The syrups are similar in terms of sugars and kilojoules  ( one tablespoon of honey or sugar syrup has approximately 360 kilojoules) and are all made by extracting and boiling off the water to reduce and concentrate the natural sugars.

1. Honey

Honey contains small quantities of  some minerals and B vitamins. Most commercial honey has a moderate glycaemic index.( GI ) The rating is 50-65 ( moderate)  White sugar has a GI of 65

2. Maple syrup

Maple syrup is the sap from the wild sugar maple tree and is a mix of sugars ( from 90 to 100% sucrose and 0 to 10% glucose or fructose) . It also contains traces of vitamins, some mineral material such as manganese, potassium, iron and calcium, vitamins  and organic acids. The syrup is boiled to reduce the volume and produce the syrup. The GI is rated as 54 Medium-Low

3. Agave Syrup

Agave syrup or nectar is extracted from the agave plant. It is mostly fructose ( white sugar is half fructose and half glucose). The syrup is sweeter than table sugar and has a lower GI of 15 ( very low)    It requires filtering, boiling and reduction processes for production. The high fructose content may cause digestive problems for some.

4. Golden syrup

Golden syrup is derived from molasses, the residual sugar from the milling of sugar cane. It is a mix of three sugars, sucrose, glucose and fructose. It contains more water and less sucrose than white sugar and is not as sweet. The GI is rated as 60 ( medium)

5. Treacle

Treacle is also a cane sugar syrup, with a stronger flavour than golden syrup. In production, some of the sucrose sugar is broken down to glucose and fructose during production. The GI rating is 60 ( Medium)

6. Molasses

Molasses is the syrup left after the raw sugar crystallises during sugar milling. It is a mixture of sucrose, glucose, water and fructose. It also contains some minerals such as magnesium and potassium and some B vitamins in very small quantities. The GI rating is 55-60 ( medium)

7. Barley Malt Syrup

Also known as malt extract, it is made from sprouted barley. The grains are soaked in water, heated gently and left to sprout. The sprouting triggers enzymes which convert the barley starches to sugars. it is then mixed with water, boiled, concentrated and filtered to extract the syrup.  It contains about 75% maltose, 16% glucose and small amounts of fructose and sucrose.   The taste is less sweet than refined white sugar and may tempt  people to add more to achieve the taste required.  The GI is rated as 42 ( Low)

8.   Brown Rice Malt Syrup

It is produced by cooking brown rice flour or starch with enzymes. This breaks down the starches into more simple sugars as a liquid which is filtered and reduced by heating until the required  consistency. The sugar is 45% maltose, 52%  maltotriose  and a small amount of glucose, The GI is 98 ( very high from the Sydney University GI data base, some sites have listed the GI incorrectly as very low )

The main problem with our sugar intake is not the sugar we add ourselves, but the sugars in ready-made and processed foods particularly those we do not consider as sweet, (or example a tablespoon of tomato sauce contains a teaspoon of  sugar  ) or in soft drinks, cordials and juices.

To  calculate your recommended daily energy needs look to the Eat for Health website. There is one gram of sugar for every 17 kJs.( )The link to the health calculators is on the home page of the website.

<- Back to: News