Dealing with Sugar
Reducing Sugar Intake and Its Negative Impact on Our Health.
The ingestion of excess sugar in our diet can lead to many health issues including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, just to name a few.
According to the American Heart Association
(AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
- Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
- Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).
To put that into perspective, one 12oz can of coke contains 140 calories from sugar, while a regular sized snickers bar contains 120 calories from sugar.
According a 2017 article published in the Globe and Mail, data from the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey suggests that kids consume 33 teaspoons of sugar a day, far above the World Health Organization’s recommendation that sugars ideally make up 5 per cent but no more than 10 per cent of a person’s daily calories.
The health consequences are troubling, to say the least, including an increased likelihood of everything from high blood pressure or heart disease to type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea and depression, as well as bone and joint problems. Obesity rates for children in Canada between the ages of 2 and 17 have tripled in the last 30 years, according to Statistics Canada.
Gulping down 33 teaspoons of sugar a day isn’t a direct route to any one of these conditions, but certainly gets kids pointed in the wrong direction.
The article goes on to share that a single glass of apple juice contains the same amount of sugar as four or five apples do, without any of the fibre. “Have an orange for breakfast, don’t drink orange juice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. In its strongest language yet on the subject, the organization declared that fruit juice has absolutely no essential role in healthy diets. “Essential means something you need to have. You simply don’t need fruit juice in your diet,” says Dr. Steven Abrams, chair of the AAP’s committee on nutrition.
And while fruit juice is most easy for parents to mistake for a smart choice, other drinkable sugars are also big problems: Don’t be fooled into thinking that “vitamin-enhanced” energy drinks, sports drinks, flavoured waters or drinkable yogurts are ever a better choice than water or milk.
Learn To Identify Various Sugars On A Food Label
Many processed foods are laden with sugar adding surplus calories to today’s meals. Soft drinks, fruit juice beverages, confectionary products, baked goods, breakfast cereals, and yogurt can all be culprits of calorie overload due to sugar.
High caloric intake is a known contributor to obesity and Canadian waistlines continue to expand. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the rate of obesity in Canada is close to 25%. Statistics Canada confirms that one in every five calories consumed by Canadians comes from sugar.
Despite such concern, Health Canada has yet to recommend a limit on sugar consumption. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for Canadians to gauge – how much is too much?
Food labels present additional challenges that are far from sweet:
- Many different names identify added sugars. Some are more obvious, such as brown sugar and icing sugar, however, many are unassuming such as barley malt, evaporated cane juice, and agave nectar;
- Sugars are rarely grouped together in the ingredient list. Listing them individually disguises their true prominence within a product and means they may appear further down in the list of ingredients where they may go unnoticed;
- The total amount of sugar on the Nutrition Facts table does not differentiate between ‘naturally occurring’ sugars (i.e. sugars found in fruit, vegetables and milk) and ‘added’ sugars. Foods that contain ‘added’ sugars are typically higher in fat and/or calories and lower in nutrients than foods containing naturally occurring sugars;
- In some cases, sugars may be completely hidden from an ingredient list due to loopholes in Canadian labelling regulations making the total amount of sugars declared on the Nutrition Facts table an important source of information.Shopping tips to help you identify sugar on labels:
- Look for ingredient names that actually incorporate the word ‘sugar’ (i.e. liquid sugar, invert sugar, brown sugar, golden sugar);
- Realize that ingredient names ending in ‘ose’ indicate sugars too (i.e. glucose, sucrose, fructose, glucose-fructose, lactose, sugar/glucose-fructose);
- Note that honey, molasses, maple syrup and corn syrup are also added to sweeten foods;
- Don’t be fooled by ‘concentrated fruit juice’ that sounds healthier than sugar but is typically added to processed foods as a sweetening agent;
- Beware of the ingredient names ‘glucose-fructose’ and ‘sugar/glucose-fructose’ that are typically used in Canada for high fructose corn syrup;
- Keep in mind that although cane sugar and organic cane sugar may sound more enticing, both contain 4 calories per gram – same as regular sugar.
- Be cautious of ‘No Sugar Added’ claims. True – the product has no added sugars, however, it still can contain a lot of sugar (i.e. fruit juice). Products that display this claim may also contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame-potassium;
- Look for the claim ‘Unsweetened’ to indicate a product is void of both added sugars and sweeteners;
- Bear in mind that ‘Reduced in-’ or ‘Lower in-sugar’ claims simply indicate that a product contains at least 25% less sugar and at least 5 grams less sugar than a similar product that could be very high in sugar. Always reference the amount of sugars on the Nutrition Facts table for more accurate analysis.
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