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The good, bad and sweet: Sugars vital in maintaining health

BEWARE - not all sugars are created equal.

Even though most of them taste good, the difference is whether their benefit terminates on the tongue or journeys on to benefit our mind and body. 

The most important factor when looking at labels is to distinguish between added sugar and natural sugar, which is found in fruit, dried fruit, milk etc. These natural sugars come packed with nutrition and make up an important part of a healthy diet.

So, what are the sugars that benefit the mind and body? Quite simply, you will find the good sugars come in natural foods. Think natural; fructose and lactose, fruit and milk.

Now, what is considered bad sugar? Think processed; sucrose, commonly known as cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFC). These are processed, super sweet sugars added to many commercial foods including jams, cereals, baked goods, confectionery, soft drinks, ice cream and flavoured yoghurt.

Nutrition Professionals Australia dietician, Anne Schneyder, said there was a lot of publicity about the 'evils' of sugar.

"But for most people, a little bit of added sugar does no harm," she said.

Adding to the categories of good and bad sugars, Ms Schneyder said there were other elements that demanded attention.

"There are a variety of sugars that are promoted as being 'healthier' such as agave, rice malt sugar and coconut sugar,' she said.

"But the reality is that all they provide are empty calories - no real nutritional value but lots of calories."

A means of checking a food's nutritional value is to carefully read the label. The labels point to additives such as added and natural sugar.

"These natural sugars come with a lot of nutrition and make an important part of a healthy diet."

As we get older we need to make sure that we focus on healthy choices, but a small amount of sugar in a dessert or home baked cake can provide some interest to the menu without compromising good nutrition.

For instance, the best way to deal with a 'sugar craving' is to:

  • Plan for healthy meals and snacks
  • Make sure that you have some healthy snacks handy- eg fruit, nuts and seeds, cheese and crackers, yoghurt
  • Sweeten cereals or desserts with bananas, berries, fresh fruit in season
  • Don't stress about the small amount of sugar in the jam on the toast, the fruit yoghurt or custards etc.
  • Drink water to quench the thirst rather than sugary drinks

Officially, it is recommended only 10 per cent of our total recommended daily calories should come from sugar (natural or added). For an average person, this means around 45g of sugar per day. Many people eat double this amount, especially if they drink sugary soft drinks or cordials.

The other dilemma is that many sugary foods are also high in saturated fats, such as eggs, chocolate, commercial cakes and biscuits. Try to get that sweet 'hit' from fruits and naturally sweet foods instead.

Aveo's National Food Services Manager, John Casey said Aveo works closely with Nutrition Professionals Australia to ensure quality meets the benchmarks of the industry as well as all the residents living in their 93 communities.

"It's part of our commitment to providing food choices that are both a pleasure to eat and nutritious," he said.

"Aveo's nutritious and tasty meals, designed specifically for the needs of older Australians, is offered in the dining areas of their villages. Alternatively, residents can enjoy ready-made meals to enjoy at home, from an extensive menu which features everything from healthy breakfasts to hearty and delicious dinners."

The perfect treat for those watching their sugar intake: Raspberry Queen of Puddings
The perfect treat for those watching their sugar intake: Raspberry Queen of Puddings Aveo

Raspberry Queen of Puddings - From Live Life Cook by Aveo's Executive Chef John Casey.

(Serves 6-8. Prep time 40 minutes. Cooking time 45 minutes)



600ml milk

1 vanilla bean, split

125g fresh breadcrumbs

75g caster sugar

Zest of 1 orange

50g butter

3 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup raspberry jam

125g fresh raspberries

¼ cup caster sugar

Cream, to serve



Add milk and vanilla bean to a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Remove from heat and stir in breadcrumbs, sugar, orange zest and butter.

Leave to sit for 20 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the mixture.

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Add yolks to the cooled breadcrumb mixture and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into a deep pie dish. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until set.

While the pudding is cooking, heat raspberry jam in a small saucepan. Stir through raspberries.

Carefully pour the melted jam mixture over the top of the cooking pudding.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Continue beating and gradually add sugar until glossy.

Spoon mixture on top of jam and return the pudding to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes.


To serve

Spoon pudding on to plates and serve with cream.

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