How to spot hidden sugars


Many seemingly innocuous foods contain high amounts of sugar, the overconsumption of which can lead to obesity. Be a 'grocery-shelf Sherlock' by learning to spot harmful sugars lurking in your grocery list.

We all know that too much sugar is bad for your health, but detecting sugar in the products we buy and eat isn’t always obvious.

Consumers often find reading nutrition labels confusing. And what compounds the problem is that our food labels indicate total sugar, and we cannot distinguish between naturally occurring sugar in unsweetened milk and yoghurt versus added sugar in breakfast cereals. But don’t let seemingly dense dietary information make you careless about food purchases. With a little discernment, you can translate information on food packaging into meaningful, positive behaviour change! Here’s how to be smarter about identifying sugar in your diet.

Sugar and its many aliases

Check the ingredients list on products before you buy them, and watch out for these items, which all basically equate to sugar: white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, dextrose and dextrin.

If some form of sugar is in the first three ingredients listed on the product, rather give it a miss. To play it safe, try cut down on highly processed foods and buy as many whole foods as possible.

Drinks – too often a sugar trap!

One of the biggest culprits for overconsumption is sugary drinks and fruit juice. Sugary drinks are energy-dense (high in kilojoules) but low in nutrition. "Fruit is high in sugar, but whole, fresh fruit also contains fibre too. This is why eating whole fruit makes you feel fuller, which means you're less likely to consume too much of it. However, this is not true for fruit juice, energy drinks and other sweetened drinks," says Terry Harris, a dietitian at Discovery Vitality.

National Nutrition Week 2017 encouraged all South Africans to rethink our drinks and choose water. Here's a simple but revealing guide, courtesy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, to give you an idea of just how much sugar there is in common beverages.

Spot smart choices with the Vitality HealthyFood tick

Vitality wants to empower people to make healthier food choices fast. That's why we've already marked out nutritious foods, making it easier for you to spot healthy options in-store. Simply look out for the Vitality HealthyFood tick on items at Pick n Pay and Woolworths, or view the HealthyFood catalogues online to see which products qualify.

Remember, the HealthyFood benefit gives you up to 25% cash back on foods that help promote good health, so activate it today, or SMS "Join" to 47751.

Recommended for you by Vitality

Looking for more healthy tips and tried-and-tested recipes?

South African soil abounds in fantastic produce all year round, and the Vitality HealthyFood Studio seasonal delights course explores some lesser-known fruits and vegetables and help you to create delicious, healthy meals, throughout the year.

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