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Your Guide to Sugars - Part 1

January 27, 2015 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Your Guide to Sugars - Part 1

On your next visit to the grocery store, notice the different types of sugar. There are a lot. But what are the differences between them? Is one healthier? Here’s a guide to help answer some of your questions about sugar.

What is the difference between natural sugars and sugar substitutes?

Natural sugars are found in fruit, milk, honey, maple syrup and table sugar. Added sugars are sugars added to food or beverage products, mainly for taste. This includes desserts, pop, candy, fruit drinks, snacks, some breakfast cereals, and sweetened coffee drinks. All natural and added sugars are used by our bodies the same way.

Sugar substitutes, or sweeteners, include: sugar alcohols, aspartame, cyclamate, sucralose, saccharin, and steviol glycosides or stevia. These sugars taste sweet, but are minimally absorbed in our bodies. Health Canada has approved these sweeteners as safe if taken in amounts up to the Acceptable Daily Intake. Learn more from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Are some sugars healthier than others?

Despite popular belief, there are no health benefits to any type of added sugar. Honey and molasses have more vitamins and minerals than other sugars but there is no health benefit as the amount we get is minimal.

No matter what type of added sugars you consume, by having too much, you may end up eating less nutritious foods; add extra calories, and negatively affect your dental health. The World Health Organization has linked an increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to weight gain in adults. Read Facts About Sugary Drinks for ideas on healthier drink choices with less sugar.

How do I know if a food or beverage has added sugar?

Take a look at the Nutrition Facts table and use the ingredients list to choose and compare food and beverages. Choose foods with little or no added sugar in the ingredients list. Read Food Labels: Nutrition Information and Ingredients or Health Canada’s interactive nutrition label to learn how to use nutrition information and make informed choices about the foods and beverages you buy. Remember…Less is Best.

See Part 2 of this blog which looks more closely at some of the most popular varieties so you can easily recognize different types of sugar on ingredient lists.


Related Blogs:

Your Guide to Sugar - Part 2
A Closer Look at Sugar Alternatives

Recommended Resources:

Food Labels: Nutrition Information and Ingredients
Canadian Diabetes Association: Sugars and Sweeteners
Health Canada: Interactive tool: interactive nutrition label

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