Diabetes is a chronic disorder of poor blood sugar control and if left unmanaged can cause short and long term health complications. This year, National Diabetes week runs between 10-16th July. To increase awareness there are numerous health activities and campaigns running across the nation. However, to help out, a little closer to home, I am taking you through the hidden sources of sugar in food. From a nutritional perspective, we know being mindful of sugar intake is critical for both diabetes management and prevention. If this condition is not applicable to you, being mindful of sugar can nonetheless assist with overall health.
Sugars in Food
Foods can contains natural sugars and/or added sugars. Examples of natural sugars are fructose (eg found in fruit), lactose (eg found in dairy) and glucose and sucrose (eg found in onions). Added sugars are used to sweeten, flavour and/or preserve foods and can come under many names including:
- cane sugar
- raw sugar
- white and brown sugar
- malt and maple syrup
- corn syrup
- artificial sweeteners
Added sugars pose a concern when we are not aware of them and end consuming a large quantity over the course of the day. The best defence against added sugars is being a food detective and scanning the labels of foods you are buying. If you are buying foods, which contain sugar, always opt for a maximum of 10g per 100g of the food.
Foods to Watch Out For
Flavoured yoghurt: flavoured yoghurts more often than not contain added sugars always check the ingredients list.
Bottled salad dressing: dressings are all about flavour balance so usually have added sugar. Some dressings may even take you for surprise, for example aioli.
Dried Fruit: although you would think dried fruit being concentrated is sweet enough, it often contains added sugar, used as a preservative.
Canned legumes: legumes should only contain legumes, water and possibly a pinch of salt. Steer clear of brands, which add sugar and other preserving agents.
Dips: at home, your hummus may only contain chickpeas, tahini, lemon and salt, but it is common for commercial brands to include sugar.
Nut milks: always look for unsweetened on the label or else nut milks are likely to contain added sugar.
Bottled pasta sauce: even the most basic tomato pasta sauce may contain sugar, similar to canned tomatoes.
Vegetable stock: it can be hard to find stock without added sugar, if not making your own, and opting for sugar free, buying a broth may be a better option.
Peanut butter: there are many brands now which just use 100% peanuts, but some brands still have added sugar lurking in behind the peanuts to be wary of.
Crackers: whilst thought of as a savoury snack, can have some sneaky sugar added.
Bottom line: It’s not about being terrified of certain foods, instead being aware of hidden sugars in foods which you typically may not be looking out for. This allows you be in more control of your diet and therefore health!