The Bitter Truth About Sugar (Part 2)

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The GI factor

While the amount of sugar in food is important, it’s not the end of the story. The glycaemic index and the effect a food has on our blood sugar is important, so drinking large quantities of fruit juice or smoothies, for instance, is not a good idea, even though the sugar is natural, not “added” sugar, and comes packaged with other nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium, which are beneficial in terms of health. At the end of the day, most of us, even nutritionists, like a sweet treat now and again, and that’s exactly what sugar should be: an occasional treat rather than a regular part of our diet.

Description: Sugar should be an occasional treat rather than a regular part of our diet

Sugar should be an occasional treat rather than a regular part of our diet

Understanding the labels

If you eat a lot of processed foods, you’re at the mercy of the manufacturers when it comes to how much sugar they add, so start checking the labels. Looking at the nutrition panel or even the traffic lights on the front of the pack isn’t always a great deal of help because the figures given are for total sugar, not added sugar. That includes natural sugar from fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose), so a pot of plain low-fat yogurt may have 10g sugar, but it could all be natural sugar from the milk rather than added sugar.

To see if a product has added sugar, check the ingredients list. Any added rather than natural sugar appears in the ingredients list, which are shown in descending order by weight, so the higher sugar is on the list, the greater the quantity. But take care…

Description: Understanding the labels is very important so you should start checking them

Understanding the labels is very important so you should start checking them

Sugar sometimes goes by other names. If you see: glucose syrup, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, molasses, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, honey, brown rice syrup, grape juice, cane syrup, evaporated cane they’re all code for sugar! And remember…

Just because something is labelled 25% less sugar doesn’t mean it’s low in sugar; low-fat products often contain more sugar than full-fat because sugar is added to compensate for fat that has been removed.

What about sweeteners?

Stevia is one of a group of sweeteners called non-nutritive or intense sweeteners, which include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K, cyclamate and sucralose. They’re 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, virtually free of calories, don’t affect blood glucose levels and don’t cause tooth decay. Pure Via® and Truvia® (stevia brands) can be used to sweeten drinks or cereals, plus custards, puddings and baked goods, they don’t have the bulk of sugar, so you’ll need a specially adapted recipe for baking: 1tsp sugar = 20 calories; 1tsp Pure Via granules = 2 calories; 1 sachet or ⅓tsp Truvia spoonable = 0 calories

Rice malt syrup (RMS) is made from fermented cooked rice, has the consistency of honey and tastes like a mild golden syrup; it’s low GI and is fructose free (fructose is the part of the sugar molecule experts think most damaging). Use to sweeten things like yogurt, smoothies or in baking (100g sugar = 125g RMS). But don’t overdo it: you’re trying to get used to less sweet!

Description: Don’t overuse sweeteners because you’re trying to get used to less sweet

Don’t overuse sweeteners because you’re trying to get used to less sweet

 
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