Added Sugar- What You Need To Know
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that provides calories for your body to use as energy. There are two main types of sugar.
Natural sugar is found in whole, unprocessed foods. These include fruit, vegetables, dairy, and some grains. Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit. Lactose is a natural sugar found in animal dairy products.
Added sugar is found in processed foods and drinks. It also includes sugar you add to foods at home. Added sugar provides little to no nutritional value. It’s used for different reasons, such as:
- To keep baked goods fresh longer
- To keep jellies and jams from spoiling
- To help fermentation in breads and alcohol
- To improve the flavor, color, or texture of foods and drinks
On average Canadians consume 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons.
What are the main sources of added sugar in Canada?
- Sugary drinks (for example, soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juice drinks)
- Pies and cobblers
- Sweet rolls, pastries, and doughnuts
- Dairy desserts (for example, ice cream and sweetened yogurt)
The Heart and Stroke Foundation and Diabetes Canada recommends you consume no more than 10% of total daily calorie intake from Sugar. Based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, this is about 50 grams (or 12 teaspoons).
Path to improved health
If you eat or drink too much added sugar it can lead to health problems. These include:
- Tooth decay
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High triglyceride levels,
- Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels
- Decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels
People who fill up on foods and drinks that contain added sugar may be less likely to eat and drink healthy options. For example, milk contains natural sugar but also provides calcium, protein, and vitamins that help your body function well. Sugary drinks contain added sugar and provide little to no nutritional value to your body.
Your body needs a certain amount of calories each day for energy. Think of this as your daily calorie goal. Different people have different daily calorie goals. Your goal depends on your age, height, weight, and level of activity. Most of the calories you eat and drink should provide nutrients. Since added sugars don’t have much nutritional value, they’re called “empty calories.” You may gain weight if you eat or drink too many empty calories.
Things to consider
There are a lot of ways to limit or avoid added sugar in your diet.
- Choose heart-healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains for meals and snacks.
- Cut out candy, baked goods, and dairy desserts.
- Opt for water over sugary drinks. A 12-ounce can of regular (non-diet) soda contains about 130 calories and 8 or more teaspoons of sugar. Also, pass on the juice, which is loaded with calories. Juice is not a substitute for real fruit and veggies.
- Cut out processed foods. These are high in added sugar and sodium.
- Look for recipes that use less sugar when you’re cooking or baking.
It’s important to read the nutrition facts table when purchasing food. Check to see how much sugar is in a product. One gram of sugar equals 4 calories, and 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. As an example, if a label says 40 grams of sugar, you’re consuming 160 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving of that food. That’s a lot! So the lower the amount of added sugars, the better. As a general rule, foods with less than 5% added sugar make a good choice. Foods with more than 20% added sugars should be avoided.
You can also check the ingredient list, which lists ingredients in order by amount, with the largest amount listed first. Sugar can have many names. Some examples include:
- Syrup (many different kinds)
- Brown sugar
- Fruit juice concentrates