Learn about Sugar

Do you ever wonder about the amount of sugar in your food? In Canada, sugar is added to a lot of the packaged foods that are available in the grocery store. Read more to learn about the sugar in your food and how it can impact your health!

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What is sugar?

Sugar is responsible for the sweet taste of food. Sugar also provides your body with energy. Some sugars are found naturally in healthy, fresh foods such as fruit and vegetables. Other sugars are added to packaged products in the form of honey, white sugar, and corn syrup.

  • Natural sugar – Foods like vegetables, fruits, and milk products naturally have sugar. Vegetables and fruits provide other important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients help to keep your body healthy.
  • Added sugar – Added sugar is found in packaged foods and drinks. Sugar is added to packaged foods and drinks to make them taste sweet. Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart problems, and tooth decay.

Foods with added sugar:

Added sugar is found in packaged food like cookies, cake, sugary drinks, granola bars, store-bought sauces, and breakfast cereals. Enjoy these foods in small amounts and less often.

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How much sugar is in packaged foods?

Use the Nutrition Facts Table

The nutrition facts table on food packages can help you learn if something is high or low in sugar. If a portion of a packaged food contains 5% or less of sugar, then this is a small amount. If a portion of a packaged food contains 15% or more sugar, then this is a large amount.

Look at the Ingredient List

The ingredient list on a food package can also help you learn if something is high in added sugar. If the first 3 ingredients include one or more of the words: sugar, brown sugar, honey, sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, rice syrup, or fruit juice concentrate; then it is high in added sugar. Enjoy these foods less often.

What are some tips for choosing foods low in added sugar?

Choose a variety of food from Canada’s food guide.
Canada’s food guide recommends eating a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grain foods, and protein foods. Eating a variety of these foods each day helps us feel good and maintain our health, without large amounts of added sugar. To learn more about the Canada food guide and other food choices to make, click the link HERE.
Here are some examples of food low in added sugar to choose:

Enjoy a satisfying snack like Greek or plain yogurt topped with canned or fresh fruit instead of flavoured yogurt.

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Enjoy vegetables like carrots, celery, or cucumbers dipped in hummus as a tasty snack instead of a granola bar. To learn more snack ideas, click the link HERE.

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Enjoy fresh, canned, or frozen fruit as a sweet treat instead of cookies for dessert. To learn more about canned and frozen food, click the link HERE.

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When baking or cooking at home, consider using less sugar or replacing sugar with fruit for added sweetness. To learn more about how to substitute sugar in recipes, visit the link HERE.

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Choose water instead of sugary drinks.

Sugary drinks have higher amounts of added sugar. This includes soft drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee drinks. These sweetened drinks should be enjoyed less often and in small amounts. Here are some alternative examples of low added sugar drinks to enjoy more often:

  • Water
  • Water with added fruit like lemons, mint, or strawberries
  • Flavoured carbonated water
  • Coconut water
  • Milk or milk alternatives like soy or almond milk

For more information and tips on choosing sugary drink alternatives click the link HERE..

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What about drinks with artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia are added to drinks to make them taste sweet. Artificial sweeteners make the drinks sweet without adding any calories. These sweeteners have been approved by Health Canada and are considered safe to eat. To learn more about artificial sweeteners, click the link HERE.

Now that you’ve learned about the sugar in your food, you have all the tools you need to enjoy life’s sweetness!

Sources used:

Food environment interactions after migration: a scoping review on low- and middle-income country immigrants in high-income countries – PMC (nih.gov)

Sugars: Sugars and your health – Canada.ca

Make it a habit to eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein foods – Canada’s Food Guide

Replacement of refined sugar by natural sweeteners: focus on potential health benefits – PMC (nih.gov)

The sweet danger of sugar – Harvard Health

Added Sugars on the Nutrition Facts Label | FDASweet Stuff | NIH News in Health