Health on your Plate

Bitter facts about sugar in packaged food

Bitter facts about sugar in packaged food

Picture for representational purpose only. iStock

Shikha Mahajan

Kids love eating anything that is sweet and sugary. But excess of anything is always harmful. Consuming too much sugar right from a small age could lead to health complications in the future. Health-conscious parents might not be serving candies, pastries, and chocolates to their kids. But there are several packaged foods that claim low sugar but actually serve sugar in a hidden manner. This article focuses on the way companies hide sugar content in packaged food that can be harmful.

Labeling sugar by a different name

Sugar is the normal name that is given to the short-chain carbohydrates that give your food a sweet taste. However, sugar has several forms and names. You might recognise some of these names, like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Others are difficult to identify. Because food companies mostly use sugars with unusual names, this ingredient can be hard to spot on labels. Some forms of dry sugar are barley malt, cane sugar, and corn sweetener while syrups include agave nectar, rice bran syrup, and more. If you consume them regularly, it could damage teeth and also increase weight.

Adding sugar to foods you would not expect

It is common knowledge that a piece of cake or a toffee bar probably has loads of sugar. Still, some food manufacturers add sugar into foods that are not always considered sweet. Instances include breakfast cereals and yogurt.

Some yogurt cups can have as many as 6 teaspoons (29 grams) of sugar. Even whole-grain breakfast bars, that could seem like a healthy choice, can have up to 4 teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar. As several people don’t realise that these foods have added sugar, they are unaware of how much they are consuming.

If you are buying packaged or processed foods, ensure you read the label and check the sugar content, even if you think the food is healthy. Added sugarcould lead to early weight gain, inflammation, and liver diseases.

Adding a health claim to products

It is never easy to tell which products on the shelf are healthy and which ones aren’t. Manufacturers mostly plaster their packaging with health claims, making some items appear healthy when they’re really filled with added sugar.

The most common scenarios include labels such as natural, healthy, low-fat, diet, and light. While these products could be low in fat and calories, they’re mostly packed with added sugar.

Reducing the portion size

The food industry mostly makes the listed portion size small in order to distort your sense of how much sugar you are consuming. In simple words, a single product, like a mini pizza or a bottle of aerated drink, could be composed of several servings. To avoid this situation, carefully examine the number of servings per container.

— The writer is Founder, Diet Podium

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