Get over here and gimmie some sugar! But seriously, let’s talk sugar for a second. Who doesn’t love a couple treats here and there? I sure do, but with obesity and certain disease risk linked to obesity on the rise1, we need to stay informed about the sources of sugar in our diets to make the best choices.

Natural VS added sugar

The word “sugar” refers to a number of different sweet carbohydrates. Glucose, fructose and lactose are different types of these2. In industry there are two types of sugars – natural and added sugars3. Natural sugars are those that are naturally found in food; well-known sources are fruits, vegetables and milk4.Added sugars are common in processed foods because often sugars are added to certain products for the purpose of adding sweetness, flavour or as a method of extending shelf life6. Common foods that sugar is added to are puddings, ice cream, pastries, chocolate, candy, pop, cereal bars, canned fruit in syrup, sweetened coffee drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, some yogurts, breakfast cereals and oatmeals2. Try to minimize your intake of added sugars – sources of natural sugars are okay because they have other health benefits.

Read the label

Use the Nutrition Facts Table and ingredients list to make your choices. In the Nutrition Facts Tables under “Carbohydrates”, look for “Sugars”. Try to stick to products that contain 5% Daily Value of total sugars or less. Ingredients lists now group sugars together so they are easy to spot4. Added sugars can come in many forms. Here are some of the different kinds:

  • White sugar, beet sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar
  • Agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, barley malt extract, fancy molasses
  • Ingredients ending in “ose” like fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose-fructose (also called high fructose corn syrup)
  • Fruit juice and puree concentrates added to replace sugars5

Added sugars are all fairly similar in terms of composition. No one is better for you than another, meaning that all types of added sugar provide energy (calories) but are not a significant source of nutrients. Honey and brown sugar for example are not better for you than white sugar. What’s more, brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added to the sugar crystals3.

What are nutrition claims really saying?

There are so many sugar-related claims out there to help us sift through products – here are some common ones and what they mean:

  • “Sugar-free” or “Sugarless” means the serving size contains less than 0.5g of sugar or less than 5 calories
  • No added sugars means the product contains no added sugars (e.g. whites sugar, honey, fructose or concentrated fruit juice)  
  • Reduced or lower in sugar means compared to a similar product of the same portion size, the product contains at least 25% and 5g less sugar
  • Unsweetened means the product contains no added sugars or artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame or sucralose)3,6

Try these helpful tips to reduce your sugar intake…

  • To add flavour to your recipes try calorie-free spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger instead of sugar.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar a recipe calls for by one third. In baked goods, like cookies or muffins, you can replace some of the sugar with fruit puree, applesauce or mashed bananas.
  • When buying canned fruit, opt for those packed in water instead of fruit juice.
  • Chose jams that are unsweetened or low-sugar varieties. You can also use these jams, mixed with water, for glazes on cookies and breads instead of sugar7.

Jane Skapinker

Registered Dietitian


  1. Bovi, A., Michele, L., Laino, G., Vajro, P. (2017). Obesity and obesity related disease, sugar consumption and bad oral health: a fatal epidemic mixtures: the pediatric and odontologist point of view. Translational Medicine @ UniSa, 16(11-16)
  2. What you need to know about sugar (2016, October 9). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from
  3. The Truth about Sugar-FAQ (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from
  4. Functional Properties of Sugar (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from
  5. Food labelling changes (2017, July 24). (Retrieved September 26, 2017, from
  6. Nutrition Labelling and Claims (n.d.).Retrieved September 26, 2017, from
  7. Recipe Makeover: Reducing Sugar in the Kitchen (2017, July 12). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from

Monday, October 23, 2017 in
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