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It's All About Sugar

Make your shopping experience one of fun and excitement by reading the labels of the foods and drinks you purchase. This exercise can save you and your family money and provide you with good healthy and nutritious products.
Editorial Team
Published on February 17, 2018

What is sugar? Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that belongs to a class of chemically related sweet flavoured substances.

Types of sugars: there are three main types of sugar, sucrose (cane sugar), fructose (fruits) and lactose (milk).

Use of sugar: Use of sugar: Your cells need sugar (glucose) to survive. Sugar is the cells main source of energy. However, consuming too much sugar can cause health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, cavities and dental plaque.

During digestion sugars such as sucrose, fructose and lactose are broken down into simple sugars such as glucose which enters cells with the help of insulin. In the cells glucose is broken down to produce energy.

Added sugars: These are sugars that are added to foods such as cakes, bread, ice cream, candy bars, sodas and fruit juices during processing. Foods with added sugars are high in calories and low in nutrients and vitamins.

Good Sources of sugar: Fruits, vegetables and dairy products. These contain natural sugars and vitamins and minerals.

The Converstion Tool

The sugar content in foods, sodas, juices, sports drinks and other beverages is expressed as grams. Grams mean very little to most people. Since we understand teaspoons it is better to convert grams into teaspoons. It allows us to better understand and appreciate how much sugar we are using at time of consumption. It also allows us to make better and more rationale choices based on our health conditions.

The Formula

To convert grams to teaspoons divide the total amount of grams by 4 i.e., grams/4 = teaspoons

Most sodas and other sugary drinks contain 56gms of sugar in one 500 ml, small pep bottle. Using the Formula means that we consume 14 teaspoons of sugar each time we drink a soft drink. WOULD YOU PUT 14 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR INTO YOUR TEA OR COFFEE? Think how bad this is if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

The Facts

2 sugary drinks per day increases your risk of heart attacks by 35%.

The chance of developing diabetes increases by 26% and odds of having a stroke will go up by 16%

Fructose, which is a form of concentrated fruit sugar that is used to sweeten drinks increases the production of uric acid which can trigger gout, a painful inflammatory arthritis.

The American Heart Association states that “added sugars” contribute zero nutrients and are just empty calories that can lead to extra pounds, or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health.

The American Heart Association states that men need no more than 9 teaspoons of extra sugar per day and women no more than 6 teaspoons.

The American Heart Association states that men need no more than 150 extra calories per day and women no more than 100 per day.

In 2014 the World Health Organisation called for a reduction in our daily sugar intake to 5 percent of our total daily intake of calories in order to tackle the public health problems such as obesity and tooth decay. For a 2000 calorie per day diet this translates to 2 tablespoons or 25g of sugar.

Nutritionists strongly recommend against more than 13 teaspoons or 52 grams of sugar daily.

Favorite Foods that you don’t associate with sugar: Foods such as yogurt, ketchup, herbal teas, pasta and spaghetti sauces, granola bars, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, flavoured milk, breakfast cereals, instant hot cereals, dried and packaged fruit, power drinks, sports drinks, sweet bread, canned fruits and ice cream contain higher levels of sugar than most people think.

Sweetest fruits: mangoes, bananas, grapes, watermelon contain more sugar than you think. For example one large banana contains 17g of sugar, one apple 23g and one slice of watermelon 18g. However, there are nutrients and minerals in these fruits which make them a better choice than orange and other juices.

Exercise and sugar: Exercise and sugar: moderate exercise like walking, running and skipping cause your heart to beat a little faster and you breathe a little harder. When this happens your muscles use up more glucose (the sugar in your blood) which overtime can lower your blood sugar levels. Exercise also makes insulin work better and more efficiently.

You should try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week or 1 hour 3 days a week.

If you have not exercised for a long time start slowly by walking for 10 minutes and then increase by 5 minutes until you get to 30 minutes. You should check with your doctor before you start to exercise.

Invest in a pair of comfortable soft shoes.

Read labels: make your shopping experience one of fun and excitement by reading the labels of the foods and drinks you purchase. This exercise can save you and your family money and provide you with good healthy and nutritious products.

Always have the sugar conversion tool handy to convert grams of sugar to teaspoons of sugar.

The following are sugars glucose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, invert sugar, dextrose and maltose. Some products contain more than one of these sugars and they all add up.

Sugars are added to foods for taste and texture and colour for baked goods. Energy for yeast in baking bread. They add body to yogurt. Help to reduce the acidity in tomato sauce and salad dressings.

What The Terms Mean

"Sugar free" means that the product contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.

"Reduced sugar" means that the product has at least 25% less sugar per serving than the regular product.

"No sugar added", "without sugar added" or "no added sugar" means that during processing no sugars were added to the amount of sugar in the food.

Tips on swapping foods

Instead of granola bars use 1/3 cup of granola.

Use plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruits.

Make your own vinaigrette salad dressing.


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