Read the label carefully
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.