Even though the evils of added sugar are well publicised I still felt compelled to write an article about it. Many people are aware of the obvious sources of added sugar but I feel we don't yet have a firm grasp of where all our added sugars come from. We currently consume an average of 37 tsps. of sugar each day. That is an outrageous amount and in part to blame for the 25.5% of us who are considered to be in the early stages of type two diabetes. Not to mention the 260,000 of us who have already have diagnosed.
There are two areas I want to focus on that I feel trip us up. First and foremost, sugar is sugar whether it comes from brown sugar, coconut sugar, raw organic sugar, agave syrup or honey our body still sees it and treats it as sugar. Maybe it isn’t as refined as white table sugar but it still contributes to your 6 tsps a day, which is the maximum amount recommended by the Ministry of Health for an adult. This is a sure way for packaged food to appear “nourishing” when really it has 5 different words for sugar in the top 10 ingredients. Have a google of '50 names for sugar', very enlightening. Yes, fruit has sugar in it called fructose but when you eat an orange you also get the water, fibre and nutrients of that orange- not just the sugar.
Next, is the food you buy in a packet. Everyone can identify the obvious packeted food that is full of sugar such as biscuits or chocolate bars. However, it is the packeted foods we have everyday that we think are nourishing which can also be dangerous.
The meal that often contains the most packaged foods is breakfast. Cereals, yogurts and fruit juice- three prime candidates commonly consumed in the morning that can be full of added sugar. I find the best way to become more aware of how much sugar is added to a product is to read the ingredient list. Food companies have to list all the food items contained in the product from the largest amount to the least amount and if you can see that sugar is listed a number of times in a number of different ways then it probably has a heap of sugar in it. For example, the breakfast cereal below. In the ingredient list there is glucose, blackcurrant juice concentrate, brown sugar, golden syrup and dried sweetened cranberries which are all different names for sugar. This does not sound like a nutritious way to start the day. The only safe bet in my opinion for breakfast cereals currently is a bag of 100% oats or weetbix. Better yet, stick with eggs.
Yogurt can be another nightmare. 'Low fat' can be a sign it has been filled with something else and you would be much better off getting an unsweetened yogurt and adding your own flavour with frozen berries or nuts. Last but not least for common breakfast options is fruit juice, whether it be apple or mango or both, in most cases fruit juice has the sugar equivalent to fizzy drink. It may not always be added here, but even the natural sugars can be far too much. Think about how many pieces of fruit would be used to make one glass of juice, you could be drinking the same amount of sugar as 4-5 apples in one glass. If you are interested you can take the 'g' of sugar in the 100g column, multiply that by how big the packet is (eg. 5 for 500g) and divide the total numnber by 4 to see how many tsps. in the packet. Some food items will surprise you.
We want to believe that food corporations have our health in their best interest, but their goal is to sell product not solve the obesity epidemic. About 6 months ago one of my patients who had been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mentioned to me that he used to be a creative writer for food companies. His role involved writing the words found on the front or back of common food items. Sentences such as “the perfect balance of taste and nutrition” even though he had never tasted the product and had no idea what it contained. It is a worry.
My advice as always, stick to whole foods. The less packets the better, for your body and the environment. Thanks for reading.