NOVEMBER 9 – 15
Welcome to Week #5! You’ve passed the hump and are heading into the final 3 weeks. Feel free to put meat back on the table but your sweet tooth’s going on a diet.
Week #5 Wellness Challenge: Reduce Added Sugars
- Read the Article (below)
- Limit added sugars to 36 grams/day or less for men and 24 grams/day or less for women.
- Record 1 point on your challenge tracking sheet each day that you successfully reduce added sugars.
Too Much Sugar Isn’t So Sweet for Your Health
Many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health.
If you think of your daily calorie needs as a budget, you want to “spend” most of your calories on “essentials” to meet your nutrient needs. Use only left over, discretionary calories for “extras” that provide little or no nutritional benefit, such as sugar.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that provides energy to the body; it has no other nutritional benefits. Sugar can occur naturally in foods such as milk, fruit, vegetables, and other plant-based foods such as legumes and nuts. These foods are also loaded with lots of positive nutrients such as vitamins and fibre, and they help us feel full and satisfied.
Added sugars are those added to foods and drinks and include glucose, fructose, sucrose, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, fruit puree and juice etc. These sugars provide extra calories but few or no nutritional benefits. Fruit juice, either as a beverage, or as a sweetener added to other foods has less nutritional value than a piece of fruit and is high in sugar. Added sugars do not include the sugars that are found naturally in foods such as vegetables, fruit, milk, grains and other plant-based foods (e.g., legumes and nuts).
How much added sugar does the average person currently consume?
The short answer is too much. On average more than 13 per cent of our total calories come from added sugars and this is a conservative estimate. Sugar- loaded beverages are the single greatest contributor of sugar in our diets. These include soft drinks, sports drinks, juices, energy drinks and hot and cold specialty teas and coffees. One can of pop contains 40 grams, or 10 teaspoons of sugar.
How does sugar affect our health?
Consuming too much sugar is associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.
We are consuming too much added sugar, especially in foods that have little or no nutritional value such as sugar-loaded beverages. The positive benefits of consuming vegetables and fruit are clear.
How much is just right?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup. For more detailed information and guidance on sugar intake limits, see the scientific statement in the August 2009 issue of Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association.
Men: 9 teaspoons of sugar = 36 grams/day
Women: 6 teaspoons of sugar = 24 grams/day
Learn to Read Labels
When you buy packaged foods read the Nutrition Facts table and the ingredient list.
Pay special attention to the total amount of sugar and read the ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts table will tell you the total amount of sugar in the product (from both naturally occurring and added sugars) and the ingredient list will let you know where the sugar is coming from.
To count sugar, look at three things on the Nutrition Facts label:
- Serving size
- Number of servings per container
- Grams of Sugar (Listed under Grams of total carbohydrate per serving)
The total carbohydrate tells how many grams of carbohydrate are in one serving. Be careful when reading the label. There can be more than one serving size in the package, so if you eat more than one serving, you will need to multiply the grams of sugar accordingly.
Now let’s practice using a sample food label:
Read the Nutrition Facts and the Ingredient List
It is sometimes confusing to figure out how much sugar is in a food. As shown above, the Nutrition Facts on food labels lists sugars, but does not specify whether they are added or naturally occurring sugars.
The best way to decide if a food or drink has added sugar is to read the ingredient list on the food label, rather than focus on the total carbohydrate or total sugar content of a food. Sugar is found listed under many different names, so you need to become a bit of a detective to find the sugar content.
The following are some of the terms you will find on a label that indicate that a food contains added sugar:
- Brown Sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Invert sugar
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Fruit Puree
- Malt syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Corn Syrup
- Raw Sugar
You cannot determine the amount of sugar by just looking at the food’s sugar content, but you can get an idea if it contains a large amount of added sugar. Check out the ingredient list to see how near the top of the list the sugar falls. For example, when you look at the ingredient list on a can of soda, the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. This means that more sugar is in the soda than any of the other ingredients, so the soda is considered very high in sugar.
Try to avoid products that list sugar in the first five ingredients.
Understand what claims for sugar mean on packaged foods.
No added sugar – The product contains no added sugar such as glucose, fructose, honey or molasses. However it may contain naturally occurring sugars such as those from fruit or dairy products.
Reduced or lower in sugar – The food contains at least 25% and 5g less sugar than the food to which it is compared.
Unsweetened – The food contains no added sugars or sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.
Sugar-free or sugarless – Each standard serving contains less than 0.5g of sugar and less than 5 calories.
Sugar reduction tips
Thirsty? Drink water or lower fat (2% MF or less) plain milk. Flavour your water with lemon, orange or lime slices, strawberries or fresh mint. Milk has naturally occurring sugar in the form of lactose and provides lots of nutrients, such as calcium and Vitamin D. Soft drinks and fruit drinks are high in sugar, with no nutritional value. Fruit juice is high in sugar with less nutritional value and more sugar than whole fruit.
Time for a coffee or tea break? Be selective and stay away from the fancy drinks with added sugars. Instead of ordering a chai latte, order chai tea and ask them to add steamed milk. Order a latte instead of a mocha coffee. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon toppings provided for extra flavour.
Hungry for a meal? Try whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Examples are: fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit; lean meats, poultry and fish; meat alternatives such as beans, lentils or tofu; whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat couscous, barley, freekeh and whole grain breads; dairy products such as plain lower fat milk, plain yogurt and cheeses. There are so many delicious options.
Need a snack? Stock up on healthy snacks such as roasted nuts; lower-fat cheese and crackers; veggies and dip; plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Try to avoid baked goods, sweet desserts, candies and chocolates that are all high in added sugar.
Buying breakfast cereal? Choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar and more than 4 grams of fibre per 1 cup (30 gram) serving. Look high and low on the supermarket shelves. Many of the healthier cereals will be either on the top or bottom shelves. The sugar sweetened cereals are placed at eye level to make them easy for kids to find.
Cook at home more often. For great ideas on healthy home cooking, visit heartandstroke.ca/recipes for a wide variety of delicious recipes. Select recipes that are lower in sugar. And, experiment with your favourite recipes by reducing the amount of sugar by one-quarter to one-third. Try vanilla, cinnamon or almond extract to add flavour to your baking without added sugar.
Save restaurants for special occasions. When eating out, choose your restaurant wisely. Look for menus with freshly made unprocessed foods and nutrition information to help you make a healthy choice. Consider sharing a meal or ordering the appetizer size to help limit the portion size.
Heart & Stroke FoundationTM. (2014). Sugar and your health. Retrieved on September 1, 2015, from http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=4016859&ct=14183373
American Heart Association (2014). Added Sugars. Retrieved on September 1, 2015 from, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp
Nutruition 411 (2015). Sugar Content of Foods: How to Read Food Labels. Retrieved on November 2, 2015, from http://www.nutrition411.com/content/sugar-content-foods-how-read-food-labels
Diabetes Education Online (2015). Learning to Read Labels. Retrieved on November 2, 2015, from http://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/