Sugar Incognito Learn to Identify Various Sugars on a Food Label. by Allison Jorgens, P.H.Ec.
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.
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 sugars 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 sugars 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.
Too much to swallow? Two tips to help:
Although there is no ‘recommended’ limit on sugar consumption in Canada, this simple equation may help to put sugars into perspective:
1. Simply divide the amount of sugars in grams declared on the Nutrition Facts table by 4 to determine the equivalent number of teaspoons of sugar per serving.
2. The AHA recommends average women limit added sugar consumption to about 6 teaspoons a day (24 grams), and average men limit added sugar consumption to about 9 teaspoons a day (36 grams).
Allison Jorgens is a Professional Home Economist based in Ontario’s York Region. She has been working as a food label/regulatory affairs specialist for Canadian food companies for over a decade. Allison is a member of the Ontario Home Economics Association.
Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA), a self-regulated body of Professional Home Economists, promotes high professional standards among its members so that they may assist families and individuals to achieve and maintain a desirable quality of life.
For further information, please contact: Ontario Home Economics Association, 14 Totten Place, Woodstock, ON N4S 8G7 Tel/Fax: 519-290-1843 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ohea.on.ca