Tricky Names for Sugar (And Other Important Sugar Tips)

Move over, Saturated Fat! A new public enemy has replaced you and its name is…Sugar!

There have been many alarming headlines about the negative health impacts of sugar. In fact, too much sugar in our diet may lead to heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes and cavities1. This has lead the World Health Organization to develop new guidelines for sugar intake in children and adults, and many governments have followed suit. But before you start to panic and throw out everything in your cupboard or have a breakdown at the grocery store, here are some things to know about sugar.

 

What is sugar?

Sugar is a broad category of simple carbohydrates that your body uses to make energy. You might have heard that sugar gives you “empty calories,” because by itself it doesn’t give you anything else nutritionally. There are two types of sugars1-2:

  • Natural sources of sugar, which includes milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (beans and lentils). You don’t need to avoid foods with naturally-occurring sugars because they provide you with many nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.
  • Added (or “free”) sugar is the sugar that is added to foods by the manufacturer, consumer or in cooking, and sugars found naturally in syrups, honey, and fruit juices (SOURCE: HS position). This is the type of sugar that most dietitians recommend limiting.

The tricky thing about free sugars is that they come in so many different names. Some common ones are3:

  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Glucose-fructose (aka high fructose-corn syrup)
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

Also, more “hidden” sources of sugar are barley malt extract, fruit juice and puree concentrates. Note that while raw sugar, evaporated cane sugar, molasses, brown sugar, agave syrup, honey and maple syrup might sound more natural, they provide you with the same amount of sugar per gram.

 

How much sugar do Canadians eat?

The number one contributor of sugar in Canadian diets are sugar-sweetened beverages like pop, specialty coffee and tea drinks, energy drinks, and flavoured juice drinks. The average Canadian adult consumes at least 16 teaspoons of added sugar per day4. In a year, this adds up to about 50 pounds of sugar5! Think of a 1 kilogram bag of sugar, weighing about 2 pounds. If we are all consuming 50 pounds of sugar a year, that’s 24 bags of extra sugars per person!

In 2017, Health Canada announced that there will be changes to how sugar has to be listed on the Nutrition Facts Table and on the ingredient list of packaged foods. This will make it easier to know how much sugar is in the food, and how to find it in the ingredient list. The food industry has 5 years to make these changes.

 

What I do to reduce my sugar intake?

Some added sugar can be part of a healthy diet; however, we recommend limiting it. Here are some tips to reduce your added sugar intake:

  • Eat more whole, unprocessed foods. These are foods that are close to how they are found in nature, like whole fruits in vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, lentils, lean meats, and dairy.
  • Cook at home, from scratch, more often. Meal planning can really help with this – our nutritionists are ready to help!
  • Try to avoid sugary drinks like pop, sports drinks, juice (even 100% fruit juice) and fancy coffee drinks. Quench your thirst with water or milk.
  • Read the labels. On the Nutrition Facts Table, look for “sugars” under “carbohydrates”. Note that “sugars” includes both naturally-occurring and added sugars. Use the Nutrition Facts Table to compare products and try to choose foods with less or no added sugar. On the new labels, all sugar-based ingredients will have to be grouped together in brackets under the name “sugars.” This will help consumers identify all the sources of added sugars.

For more tips on how to reduce your sugar intake or for more information, book an appointment with one of our dietitians.

 

By Melanie Legare – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian 

 

References

1https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/2017-position-statements/sugar-ps-eng.ashx

2http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Carbohydrate-and-Sugar/What-you-need-to-know-about-sugar.aspx

3https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-labelling-changes.html#a4

4Based on 13% added sugar on 2000kcal/day diet

5Based on 13% added sugar on 2000kcal/day = 65g sugar/day