By Sarah Hyett, Prevention and Screening Services - February 23, 2019
According to Health Canada, consumption of excessive sugar is a significant public health concern. A diet high in sodium, sugars, and saturated fat is one of the top risk factors for chronic diseases. Choosing foods with no added sugar is beneficial for your health.
Added sugar refers to when sugar is added to food, beverages, or recipes during preparation, and added to processed foods and beverages during production.
Avoiding added sugar may seem simple, but it’s not as straight forward as you might think. Sheri Maltais, Registered Dietitian at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, explains how sugar can come in many forms and may be disguised under many names. “Honey, molasses, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, dextrin, maltodextrin and ingredients that end in ‘ose’ such as sucrose or fructose, are all examples of added sugar,” she said.
On average, Canadians consume 15 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon. “Added sugars add up quickly, especially with consumption of processed foods such as sweetened breakfast cereals, salad dressings and sauces, sweetened beverages, flavoured yogurts, sweetened soy or almond milks, even bread products,” said Maltais.
Health Canada is aiming to make added sugars more transparently labeled by 2022. Added sugars listed as ingredients will be grouped together in brackets by weight. Also, a % daily value for sugars will be included in the nutrition facts table, making it easier to compare sugar content. Until then, you’ll need to look more closely at the ingredient list for hidden sugars.
How do you decide if the sugar content of food and beverages is acceptable? Maltais gives some tips for decoding sugar on nutrition labels:
Is there five grams or less of sugar per serving? If yes, this food is low in sugar. Enjoy!
Determine the source of sugar and how much sugar is added to the food. Do this by looking at the ingredients that are listed in order of weight - the higher on the list sugars appear, the more sugar is in the food. Lower amounts of sugar are naturally found in dairy, vegetables and whole fruit.
“In general, a large source of added sugar comes from processed foods and beverages,” explains Maltais. “A helpful starting point is to avoid processed foods. Replacing pop or juice with water can also make a huge difference. For something naturally sweet, try making a homemade smoothie with whole fruit and plain unsweetened yogurt.”
If you’re interested in learning more about reducing added sugar in your diet, join Maltais, and Rachael Kearns, Dietetic Intern, at the Healthy Get-Together Speaker Series hosted by Prevention and Screening Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. The session titled, ‘The Not-So-Sweet Truth about Added Sugar’, will cover why you should care about added sugar, how to identify added sugar, and how to avoid it. Join us on Thursday February 28th 7:00 to 8:00PM in Auditorium A at the Hospital. The event is free, open to everyone, and parking passes are available.
To register for the event call 684-7237. If you can’t make it to this session, feel free to view it and other recorded Healthy Get-Together sessions at: www.bit.ly/healthygettogether. This event is part of Eating Healthy Together. Eating Healthy Together aims to provide a supportive, informative, and healthy food environment for consumers at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.