Read the la­bel care­fully

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - World Diabetes Day -

EAT­ING too much sugar can bring about sev­eral neg­a­tive ef­fects on our health, in­clud­ing obe­sity, high blood pres­sure, heart dis­ease, liver prob­lems and di­a­betes.

Although di­a­betes is not di­rectly re­lated to high sugar in­take, con­sum­ing too much sugar can cause obe­sity, which is a risk fac­tor for di­a­betes.

It is thus es­sen­tial to con­trol the amount of sugar you con­sume daily. If you are di­a­betic, it is es­pe­cially cru­cial to limit your sugar in­take to the daily rec­om­mended amount as ad­vised by your doc­tor.

How­ever, the rec­om­mended daily in­take is of­ten ex­ceeded by many Malaysians due to lack of aware­ness.

Most peo­ple do not know the dif­fer­ence be­tween nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sugar and added sugar or have the knowl­edge of how to read and de­ci­pher food la­bels to un­der­stand how much sugar is in food prod­ucts, which can lead them to un­know­ingly con­sume large amounts of sugar.

Iden­tify the dif­fer­ent types of sugar

Sugar that we com­monly con­sume can be clas­si­fied into two types:

Nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring – Sugar that is found in fruits, dairy prod­ucts, whole grains, rice and veg­eta­bles rich in starch such as corn, sweet po­ta­toes, beans and peas. Added – Ar­ti­fi­cial sugar that is added dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion and pro­cess­ing of food. Some ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples are candy, cakes and car­bon­ated drinks, but there are also un­ex­pected food sources that con­tain added sugar such as yo­ghurt, salad dress­ing and chilli sauce.

Nat­u­ral sugar is more dif­fi­cult to digest and hence makes you feel sated for a longer pe­riod of time. The body ab­sorbs this kind of sugar slowly, keep­ing your blood glu­cose level from sud­den spikes and dips.

Added sugar, on the other hand, is eas­ier to digest and pro­vides a burst of en­ergy right af­ter con­sump­tion. Ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of added sugar is harm­ful in the long run.

When you con­tinue to con­sume large amounts of sugar, you need to work hard to burn off those ex­tra calo­ries. If you lead a seden­tary life­style and eat food that con­tains lots of sugar, the ex­cess sugar is digested and de­posited in your body as fat, lead­ing to obe­sity and even­tual health com­pli­ca­tions.

The hid­den dan­gers

Un­for­tu­nately, the in­gre­di­ent lists on pack­aged food items of­ten do not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween nat­u­ral and added sugar. How­ever, do check the in­gre­di­ent la­bel to see if it con­tains one or more of th­ese types of added sugar.

- Glu­cose - Mo­lasses - Malt sugar - Lac­tose - Fruc­tose - Corn syrup - Agave - In­verted sugar

- Brown sugar

- Mal­tose - Corn sweet­ener - Honey - Su­crose - Fruit juice con­cen­trate - Sor­bitol - Man­ni­tol

An­other mar­ket­ing gim­mick that con­sumers of­ten fall for is when prod­ucts claim to be sugar-free or have re­duced sugar or no added sugar. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the mean­ing of th­ese terms to keep tabs on your sugar con­sump­tion.

Sugar-free – In most cases when a food la­bel says “sug­ar­free”, it means it does not con­tain added sugar but has ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, which may be detri­men­tal to health. Re­duced sugar – This means that the prod­uct con­tains less sugar than sim­i­lar food items. It is still im­por­tant to check the in­gre­di­ent list be­cause even the re­duced amount may ex­ceed your rec­om­mended daily sugar in­take. No added sugar – This means that no sugar was added dur­ing prepa­ra­tion or pro­cess­ing of the food item, but it may still con­tain nat­u­ral sugar.

Stay vig­i­lant, stay safe

Ef­forts to curb your sugar con­sump­tion will be in vain if you do not start to pay at­ten­tion to the in­gre­di­ent lists of pack­aged food items.

If you live with di­a­betes, heed ad­vice from your doc­tor and nu­tri­tion­ist so that your dis­ease can be brought un­der con­trol.

As hu­mans need sugar for en­ergy, it is quite im­pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate sugar from our di­ets. You can, how­ever, en­sure that you and your fam­ily ad­here to the rec­om­mended daily sugar in­take and take the right pre­cau­tions so you all lead healthy lives.

The amount of sugar each of us con­sumes is prob­a­bly more than how much we think we con­sume, and that is be­cause of the hid­den sugar in many pro­cessed food items.

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