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Slash those sweets

World Health Organization lowers limits for sugar consumption

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World Health Organization lowers limits for sugar consumption.

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World Health Organization lowers limits for sugar consumption.

Do you drink a glass of juice a day? If so, you're likely ingesting too much sugar, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Earlier this month, WHO, the United Nations' global health watchdog, announced its proposed plans to lower its sugar-consumption guidelines from 10 per cent of daily caloric intake to below five per cent. It's encouraging governments around the world to do the same.

 

That would mean a normal-sized person adhering to WHO guidelines could take in 25 grams of sugar daily. That's equivalent to a can of pop or a glass of juice -- in other words, around six teaspoons of sugar.

What WHO considers a safe amount for children would be even less than six teaspoons.

WHO's proposed sugar limits include table sugar (sucrose) and the naturally occurring sugar in fruit juice. Glucose and fructose added to foods as well as natural sugars present in honey, fruit concentrates and syrups are also on the list.

Canada does not have official sugar-intake recommendations, but scientists here and abroad have made one thing clear: Sugar isn't just bad for teeth; it's linked to Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and increased heart attack risk.

Why? What we know is that sugar is void of nutrition. On top of that, it has the power to get into your bloodstream quickly, raise blood-sugar levels and cause a hormonal reaction that can wreak chaos in the body.

Following the proposed WHO sugar guidelines would be difficult for anyone. Not only is it hard to ignore a craving for sweets, sugar is lurking in foods where you'd least expect it.

As someone with Type 1 diabetes, I need to constantly track my sugar intake. Here are my tips to help you spot hidden sources of sugar in the foods you eat:

  • Scan ingredient lists of all forms of sugar. When you see sucrose, glucose, fructose, honey, corn syrup, cane sugar, cane syrup, molasses and dextrose near the top of an ingredient list, think twice about what you're ingesting. These forms of sugar are just as unhealthy as table sugar.
  • Read the nutrition label on packaged foods. Zero in on the carbohydrate grams listed on the label, particularly the sugar content. (Carbs include starch, sugar and fibre.)
  • Limit ketchup and barbecue sauce. Believe it or not, ketchup and barbecue sauces are mostly sugar. (One tablespoon of ketchup equals four grams of sugar. Barbecue sauces are just as sweet.)
  • Avoid fruit juice. Even though fruit juice is "natural" and does contain vitamin C, that's no reason to down juice regularly (unless you're running a marathon regularly). Because juice contains no fibre, it makes blood sugar levels skyrocket. Want vitamin C? Take a supplement. Better yet, eat a whole fruit. Whole fruits contain fibre that slows your absorption of sugar and helps you feel full and satisfied -- something that juice cannot accomplish.
  • Cane sugar, brown sugar and raw sugar are just like white sugar. It's a myth that brown sugar is more natural than white sugar. Sugar is sugar. They all contain four grams of sucrose in a teaspoon. They all enter your bloodstream at the same pace.
  • Think of honey, agave syrup and maple syrup as liquid sugar.
  • Substitute whole-grain crispbread crackers for whole-grain bread. Packaged sandwich bread -- even the whole-grain variety -- often has two to three grams of sugar in each slice. To avoid this, consider using crispbread as a vehicle for your turkey, hummus, almond butter and guacamole. (Ryvita Sesame Rye is my favourite.) Crispbread contains no sugar, has a short list of ingredients and a hefty two grams of fibre in each cracker.

 

Have an interesting story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2014 D1

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