Sugar – where is it hiding?


This is my article written for Camden Carers’ Newsletter, Spring 2016 edition

Sugar, it’s everywhere! Now added to so many foods – and not just desserts – it is sometimes hard to know that we are eating it.

Sugar comes in two forms – naturally occurring, found in fruit, vegetables, grains and even milk (lactose), and added/free sugar which refers to sugars added to food plus those found in honey, syrups and fruit juices. It is these added sugars we want to avoid. Current recommendations are that adults and children aim to consume no more than 5 percent of calories from free sugars; that’s around 25g or 6 teaspoons per day.

Sugar masquerades under many different guises – the names below may be familiar but are all just forms of sugar. As far as the body is concerned, sugar is sugar, no matter what form it is in. So even though honey, maple syrup and dates contain some health benefits, the body’s response to them will be the same as table sugar.

Sugars (anything ending in –ose is a sugar)

• Dextrose • Fructose • Glucose
• Sucrose • Maltose • Honey
• Maple syrup • Molasses • Corn syrup
•  Agave nectar • Coconut palm sugar • Treacle
• Caramel • Date sugar • Brown rice syrup
• Maltodextrin • Mannitol • Sorbitol

So how to monitor your sugar intake?

Learn to read food labels.   Food labels list ingredients in descending order, so if sugar is one of the first ingredients, steer clear! The nutritional panel (usually on the back of the packet) will list carbohydrates, and is frequently broken down to show ‘of which sugars’. This refers to the total sugar content, both naturally occurring and added sugars. So while this won’t tell you whether the sugars are naturally occurring or added, it will give you an idea of the total sugars you are eating. Some manufacturers also use the traffic light system to show sugar content per 100g, with green being low (5g and below), yellow medium (5-15g) and red high (over 15g). Smartphone users could also try downloading the free Sugar Smart app, which lets users scan barcodes of over 75,000 products to reveal their sugar content in cubes or grams.

Lisa Powell

Registered Nutritional Therapist

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