Confused about sugar? You’re not alone. There are over 50 words to describe ‘sugar’ which means interpreting food labels is no easy feat.
Why so confusing? Currently our food labels show total sugar, which doesn’t differentiate between the sugars that are added (by manufacturing) and ones that are naturally occurring, such as fruit or milk-based products – think fruit, dried fruit, yoghurt.
A recent review to consider mandatory “added sugar” food labelling makes total sense and mean Aussies could finally have access to information about how many “empty calories” are in processed and packaged foods soft drinks and packaged foods. For example, if mandatory labelling is enforced consumers would see 16 teaspoons of added sugar on the label for a 600 mill bottle of Coca-Cola.
What About “Healthy” Foods?
Food like yoghurt and breakfast cereals can contain beneficial nutrients that we need, such as calcium, B-vitamins, wholegrain and fibre, however some also can dish up whopping amounts of added sugar. To be on the safe side, look for ‘no added sugar’ on packs.
As a general guide opt for less than 10g per 100g of or less than 25g per 100g of total sugar if cereal or yoghurt contains dried fruit.
How Much Sugar Are Aussies Eating?
The Australian Health Survey found that in 2011-2012, Australians were consuming an average of 60g of sugars each day, or the equivalent of 14 teaspoons of white sugar.
Not surprisingly, the majority of these sugars were coming from “discretionary” foods and drinks, such as processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Sugar in Disguise
if you really want to shy away from sugar, but confused about which alternative to choose? Here’s a simplified guide.
HONEY – Kilojoules per teaspoon: 92
WHAT IS IT? A liquid sweetener produced naturally by honey bees. Like table sugar, honey is made up of two simple sugars: glucose and fructose. Honey does contain more kilojoules than table sugar, but as honey is a little sweeter, you need less of it. Unlike table sugar, honey also contains very small amounts of nutrients, including B-vitamins, niacin, zinc, potassium, folate and calcium.
TIP: Honey is believed to have a number of health benefits, particularly antibacterial and wound-healing qualities. It is not suitable for children under the age of one due to the risk of contracting botulism.
Kilojoules per teaspoon: 92
WHAT IS IT? Sweeter than honey, agave nectar is also a combination of fructose and glucose sugars. “is syrup is derived from the Mexican ‘agave’ plant through intense processing. However, due to agave’s high fructose content, agave nectar has a very low Glycaemic Index (GI), which makes it diabetic-friendly.
TIP: Although agave is perceived as a healthier alternative to table sugar, agave is still a highly refined and processed sweetener, so best enjoyed in moderation.
These alternatives are plant derivatives that may be as sweet (if not more) as sugar but contain fewer kilojoules with minimal effect on blood sugar levels. Using sugar substitutes in place of sugar as part of a healthy diet may be useful for people concerned about their dental health, limiting their kilojoule intake or controlling their blood glucose levels. Some examples are as follows:
Kilojoules per teaspoon: 7.9
WHAT IS IT? Stevia is a natural and versatile alternative to other sweeteners, with no carbohydrates, minimal kilojoules and is over 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
BEST FOR: Sweetening hot and cold beverages. Add to your favourite fruits and cereals. It can also be used in baking as it is heat stable.
Kilojoules: range from 1 to 11 kilojoules per gram.
WHAT IS IT? Even though they are called sugar alcohols, they do not contain alcohol. Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener made from natural carbohydrate found in fibrous fruit and vegetables. Common examples include xylitol, erithrytol, mannitol and sorbitol. You can cnd them in ice creams, chewing gums, so& drinks, baked goods, sweets, biscuits and puddings that are labelled as “sugar- free” or “no sugar added”. Sugar alcohols also have less of an impact on blood sugar levels and the taste is often sweeter than sugar.
BEST USE: Used to sweeten tea and coffee, and in baking.
CAUTION: Sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect or other gastric symptoms in some people, especially in children.
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