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The Bitter Truth about Hidden Sugar

What are the different names for sugar? There are so many different guises and aliases for sugar and the food manufacturing industry often uses several different terms on the labels. Look out for the following. Glucose, fructose, maltose…. actually anything ending in ‘ose’! High fructose corn syrup, barley malt, rice syrup, cane sugar.

Sugar, our most readily available and legal drug?

You would have to have been living under a rock for the last two years to be unaware of the dangers of excessive sugar intake. From obesity and dental decay to fatty liver, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Firstly, let’s get informed about the basics.

What type of sugar do we need to be concerned about?

There is a huge difference between ‘added sugars’ and sugars that are naturally occurring in some foods. Naturally occurring sugars is a whole other topic and sugar in some form is naturally present in many carbohydrate foods including fruits, veg, grains and milk.

Added sugars are sugars added by the manufacturer to foods such as breakfast cereals, confectionery, junk foods and processed foods. Of course, regular table sugar, honey, jams and pure fruit juice are also considered as added sugar. So, you need to read the ingredients list and identify if what you’re buying contains added sugar and if so, how much?

How much sugar is too much?

The WHO recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. The average Irish person has 4 times this amount.

To put this into context, if you drank one can of Coca Cola per day you are over your limit. If you had a portion size of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes for breakfast and a Muller Light Strawberry Yoghurt mid morning, you reached your limit of sugar for the day.

How to tell the sugar content of food

  • A food is considered high in sugar if it contains more than 15g of total sugars per 100g.
  • A food is considered low in sugar if it contains 5g of total sugars per 100g.
  • Read the nutrition label, look for ‘Carbohydrates of which sugars’ and at how many grams of sugar per portion/bar/biscuit/pot. Each 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon.
  • Sugar Content of Common Foods
  • Bottle of coke 500ml – 10.5 tsp sugar
  • Snickers Bar – 7 tsp sugar
  • Bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes – 4 tsp sugar
  • Tablespoon ketchup – 1 tsp sugar
  • Muller light strawberry yoghurt – 2.5 tsp
  • Yoplait strawberry yoghurt – 4 tsp
  • Glass orange juice (150ml) – 2.5 tsp sugar
  • Can red bull – 6 tsp sugar
  • Kelloggs Nutri Grain bar – 3 tsp sugar
  • Dolmio Bolognese sauce 500g – 6.5 cubes

Have a look at some of the treats and foods in your cupboards and fridge. How many teaspoons of sugar do they contain?

Moving from a high sugar diet to a no sugar diet isn’t always easy, start by reducing it.

Here are some tips to help you reduce your sugar intake:

Strip your kitchen of as many sugar sources as possible.

Step 1

Soft drinks (including Diet versions), fruit juices, pure fruit/bottled smoothies, flavoured waters all must go.

Step 2

Sweets – pretty obvious but to be clear this means chocolate bars, cakes, ice cream, packets of sweets, biscuits etc. Get rid of temptation. Don’t buy them, do not bring the enemy into the house!

Step 3

Breakfast Cereals – most are packed with sugar. If you want to have cereals, those with lower sugar content such as Weetabix and Shredded Wheat would be better options. Oats or eggs are great options for your first meal of the day.

Look at serving sizes on cereal boxes. A serving size is usually stated as 30g and being realistic most people have 3 times that amount.

If you have to have something sweet, have a good quality treat such as a little dark chocolate after a meal, this way it will have much less of an effect on your blood sugar levels. Sugar bombs in between meals are much worse.

Also remember that what counts, is what you as a family eat most of the time, not what you eat occasionally, so don’t beat yourself up over occasional treats.

For more expert advice, check out eumom’s Nutritional ExpertCiara Ryan.


About the Author

I'm Ciara Ryan, eumom's Nutritional Expert. I'm a Nutritional Therapist and member of NTOI. I'm also a mother to three sons, age 9, 7 and 2. I'm passionate about the power of nutritional therapy in helping with both prevention of illness and the promotion of optimum physical and mental health and wellbeing.

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