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How much sugar do children need?

There’s always so much hype in the media about different diets and more recently sugar has been labelled as public enemy number one for its negative health effects, but let’s take a closer look at why it’s getting such a bad rap.

Firstly, there are lots of different types of sugar and they’re classed in two ways; free sugars and naturally occurring sugars. Free sugars are the ones that are added to sweeten food and drink and are also the ones found naturally in fruit juices, honey and syrups. Naturally occurring sugars are just that – they occur naturally in fruit and milk.

The UK government advises that adults and children over 11 years should have no more than 7 teaspoons of free sugars per day, whereas a child aged 4-6 should have no more than 5 teaspoons, and children aged 7-10 should have no more than 6 teaspoons.

The problem with free sugars, or added sugars, is that they cause a huge spike in blood sugar levels which can be detrimental on your health – this causes your insulin levels to spike which can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin has an important role to play in how sugars are used or stored in the body and when it’s no longer doing its job effectively it can lead to type 2 diabetes, a higher risk of heart disease, and excessive fat storage. Added sugars also feed the bad bacteria in your gut which can damage the intestinal wall, cause bloating, excess gas, an increase in bacterial infections and a weakened immune system.

Don’t go throwing all sugar out the window though! I’ve heard endless stories of people who go completely sugar free, and they scrap fruit too, but fruit is not all that bad, in fact it’s very good for us in moderation. The difference with fruit is that the naturally occurring sugar is contained alongside 5 essential nutrients; vitamins, minerals, fibre, water and antioxidants. Firstly, fibre slows digestion and so reduces that harmful spike in blood sugar levels. Also, the vitamins, minerals, water and antioxidants help the body to work properly and to protect against cellular damage.

Fruit juices are a tricky one – although they contain vitamins and minerals, most of the fibre removed in the juicing process and so they contain a lot of sugar with no fibre to slow down the digestion of it. Fruit juices are okay to have occasionally but it’s best to stick with just water to hydrate you and with whole fruits to get your sugar fix – don’t go overboard though, there is definitely such a thing as too much of a good thing!


A-life is a leading provider of:

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A-life bring the primary school curriculum to life with hands-on activities that are accessible for all ages and abilities and have been carefully designed to meet many objectives in the Science, PE and PSHE curriculum. With 13 years’ experience and expert coaches, we receive outstanding feedback from staff and pupils alike. Perfect for your Health Week, A-life workshops are packed full of curriculum and fun and provide excellent value for money with prices from as little as £1.65 per pupil.