If you are feeling really good about eating healthy wholegrain breakfast cereal each day and your large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, it might surprise you to learn about the hidden sugars that could be lurking in your food and beverages.

Of course, this type of breakfast is always going to be better for you than a heart attack inducing fry-up, but it can still be improved upon. In just one bowl of Bran Flakes and a glass of juice, there is half of the recommended daily amount of sugar. Whilst a lot of us are reducing our salt, fat and calorie intake, we also need to start focusing on reducing the amount of sugar in our diets. Sugar can be damaging to our health and can cause the pounds to pile on very quickly. There is also no nutritional value in sugar and therefore it’s a good idea to seek out healthier alternatives wherever possible.

The Dangers of Sugar

Some sugars are really easy to spot – those sugars contained in your tea and coffee or the sugars in that quick chocolate bar you snapped up at the petrol station are some examples. But what about those products that are packed with hidden sugars? Too much sugar can be unhealthy and can also cause real problems with those suffering from diabetes and heart disease.

Even more surprising is that there are many sugars hiding in savoury foods. If you have ready meals and sauce jars in your cupboard, you can bet that they will contain a certain amount of sugar. Just as salt is used to season and flavour, sugar is also added to enhance the taste of our foods. It’s also quite shocking to learn that healthier low fat foods often contain increased sugar levels. These sugars are often added to make up for the lack of flavour that low fat foods often suffer from. Removing fats from processed foods makes them less appealing, but add a few teaspoons of sugar and the flavour comes back.

‘Stripping out fat from processed foods makes them less appealing to our taste buds. The inevitable consequence is that manufacturers increase other ingredients, including sugar, to recreate taste and texture,’ says Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum.

The Daily Mail set out to find out how much sugar is hiding in some of our favourite foods and drinks. The results are quite surprising.

UK food standards recommend that added sugars (those that are added to foods to sweeten them – honey, syrups, fizzy drinks and fruit juice) shouldn’t make up more than 10% of the total energy available from the food.

Food guidelines recommend that we get 50g of sugar a day from our diet. That’s equivalent to 10 sugar cubes for adults and 9 for 5-10 year olds. Just one 500ml bottle of Coke will take you way over this limit.

Other examples include:

McDonald’s milkshake – 16 cubes of sugar

Pop Tarts – 10 cubes of sugar

Orange Juice (small glass) – 8 cubes of sugar

The Sugar Lurking in Your Salad

Even a healthy salad can contain the equivalent of 2 cubes and if you have dressing you can usually add much more. There are also sugars and naturally occurring sugars in milk, vegetables, and fruit although these are much healthier than refined sugars that are added to foods.

The average Briton eats around 18% more than the recommended amount of sugar a day and this is causing problems with obesity up and down the country.

According to figures released in the Government’s national Diet and Nutrition Survey, the two most popular sugars are table sugars and liquid sweetener in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. These sugars are often added to foods from carbonated drinks through to ready meals such as chicken korma.

Sugar can cause big problems especially in later life. If you have children then you probably already know the instant effects sugar can have on your child’s mood. Sugar raises blood sugar levels, but it can also cause hypogycemia. Excess sugar can speed up the aging process and can also increase the risk of getting heart disease and cancer. It’s also widely documented that excess sugar can lead to diabetes and this in turn can cause problems with eyesight and the joints of the body. Sugar also plays a key role in causing wrinkles, drying out the skin and increasing the signs of aging.

Reduce the Sugar and Reap the Benefits

There are many benefits to following a reduced sugar diet and it can be easier than you might think. First, look at all the obvious sugars you are getting. The teaspoon you put in your tea or coffee should be the first to go. But don’t replace it with sweetener. It might take a while to wean yourself off of sugar, but once you do, you’ll wonder why you had so much in the first place. By limiting your sugar intake you will be doing wonders for your body, your blood pressure and your appearance.

Check the sugar content in the foods you buy in the store too. Many advertise the amount of sugar they contain in a handy chart on the front of the product. You can also check the calories and fat at the same time. Reducing sugar will also ensure you keep to a healthy weight and in fact, those who have struggled with their weight will testify that the pounds melted away when they drastically reduced the sugar in their diet.

Sugar isn’t necessary in our diets. It’s simply something we’ve added to our diet over the years in order to make food more palatable and appealing. By removing sugar from your diet you will be doing so much for your health.