Let’s break it down. The sad (but true) fact is that most processed things you eat, which tends to make up a big part of the diet of the average Australian, are laden with sugar. Where it gets a little sticky is that labels tend to be a bit misleading. You may be thinking you’re buying a healthy product, or a better choice option, but you actually may as well be eating tablespoons of sugar.
Sugar is also highly addictive. When we eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, a massive amount of dopamine is released in an area of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens. Sugar and other junk foods, due to their powerful effect on the reward centers of the brain, function similarly to drugs of abuse like cocaine and nicotine. So when we eat more we chase the same reward as the last time we ate it and the cycle continues.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that it is cutting its recommended sugar intake for adults in half, from the original 10 percent of total daily calories to five percent. For a normal weight adult, that's about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day. That is less than one can of soft drink per day.
In order to help uncover the facts about sugar, we’ve put together our top three everyday products that are sugar fuelled. Use this as a guide when visiting the supermarket:
Breakfast Cereals. We could list any number of cereals here but even the cleverly marketed Uncle Toby’s Plus with Sultanas has 23 grams of sugar per 100 grams and Kellogs All-Bran Wheat Flakes Honey Almond has 24 grams of sugar per 100 grams. Instead: Try oats or make your own crunchy cereal from a nut mix with some added fresh fruits.
Flavoured Yoghurts. All yoghurts contain some sugar in the form of lactose (milk sugar); it’s the added sugar typical of “fruit” yogurts that you need to watch out for. Most of these simple containers of yoghurt contain between 16-30 grams of sugar per 100 gram serve. Instead: Buy full fat natural or plain yoghurt and flavour it yourself with fresh fruit and nuts. Natural or plain full-fat yoghurt is about 4.7g/100g sugar, however this sugar is lactose, which is fructose-free. Anything over 4.7g/100g is added sugar which you need to steer clear from.
Salad Dressings. Most salad dressings, especially ones labelled “fat free” contain upwards of 5 grams of sugar per serve. For example, Praise - Thousand Island Dressing has 5.2 grams per serving and over 26 grams of sugar per 100g but is labelled as fat free to entice the health conscious person. Instead: Stick to Olive Oil and vinegar dressings or try this the Avocado dressing from one of these 37 Paleo options.
As a rule of thumb always check the label info on all products, don’t look at the claims, look at the ingredients and nutritional information. If sugar appears as one of the first 3 ingredients the chances are it will be loaded with it.
Also keep in mind that health labelling might be misleading you to make you think you’re making a good food/beverage choice. Take that information with a grain of salt and make your own informed decisions when it comes to your diet and lifestyle.