In this day and age, it is very important to understand your food labels, not only does it help you know what you are putting into your body, but it can open your eyes to the new world of added sugars in food that you were buying and wouldn’t suspect would contain sugar.
Sugar has been studied and research shows it slowly causes a range of health problems ranging from heart disease, accelerated aging, increases stress, chromium deficiency,interferes with immune function just to name a few. I thought I would source different articles that made me understand the different sugars to look out for and ways to cut down on your sugar intake.
The difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars?
There are two types of sugars in American diets: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.
- Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).
- Added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars (or added sweeteners) can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).
You can use sugars to help enhance your diet. Adding a limited amount of sugar to improve the taste of foods (especially for children) that provide important nutrients, such as whole-grain cereal, low-fat milk or yogurt, is better than eating nutrient-poor, highly sweetened foods.
Names of added sugars to watch out for on food labels include:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Spot the hidden sugar
- Low-fat and ‘diet’ foods often contain extra sugar to help improve their taste and palatability and to add bulk and texture in the place of fat.
- Even savoury foods, like ready-made soups and sauces may contain added sugar.
- A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.
- The natural sugar in some fruit, including apples, has increased as new varieties (including Pink Lady, Fuji and Jazz) are bred to satisfy our desire for greater sweetness.
Ways to cut down on your sugar
Making a few adjustments to your diet can help you cut down on unnecessary sugar consumption:
- Reduce the sugar you add to hot drinks. Do this gradually to give your taste buds time to adjust. Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to cappuccino or hot chocolate, cinnamon helps stabilise blood sugar levels and adds flavour without the sweetness.
- Avoid low-fat ‘diet’ foods which tend to be high in sugars. Instead have smaller portions of the regular versions.
- Be wary of ‘sugar-free’ foods. These often contain synthetic sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these taste sweet, they don’t help curb a sweet tooth so they tend to send confusing messages to the brain, which can lead to over-eating.
- Balance your carb intake with lean protein like fish, chicken and turkey – protein foods slow stomach emptying, which helps manage cravings.
- Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain versions like oats, granary and wholemeal breads, brown rice and pasta.
- Reduce the sugar in recipes and add spices to boost flavour and taste.
- Stick to one glass of fruit juice a day (or dilute it) and keep sweet soft drinks and alcohol for the weekends. Enjoy herbal teas or water with slices of citrus fruits.
- For a pick me up, have a piece of whole fruit with a handful of nuts or a small tub of plain yogurt. Both contain protein which helps balance blood sugar and energy levels.