So we all know sugar isn’t good for us—nothing new there. But the problem is that sugar (and a LOT of sugar) is turning up in unexpected places so it’s not always so easy to make the healthiest choices.
Banishing all sugar is not realistic (or much fun). The occasional cheat is pretty fundamental, however, it’s important to KNOW when you’re cheating. See below some of our sugar pointers. . .
- CHECK THE SUGAR % OF EVERYTHING YOU EAT—YOU’LL BE SURPRISED! When you look on labels, always check the nutrition values per 100g since this will give you the percentage of each food group. So if there is 45g of sugar per 100g, the food is 45% sugar (sounds super obvious but it’s easy to forget it’s that simple). This is the best way to compare foods because most products have totally different serving sizes and it means you are comparing all your foods like for like.
- NOTE THAT THE NHS DEFINES “HIGH SUGAR” AS FOODS THAT CONTAIN 22.5g OF SUGAR (OR MORE) PER 100. This is a really good rough guide to remember when checking those labels. Many snack bars/ balls are a staggering 40%+ sugar! Knowing this means you can choose your cheats wisely.
- WHEN “ENERGY” IS USED THE NAME OF A PRODUCT, IT’S USUALLY CODE FOR “HIGH IN SUGAR”. Energy bars were originally designed to eat immediately before high impact exercise, when you’d be using up glucose quickly. But if you’re eating these energy balls at other times (like while sitting in your office or chilling on the coach), you’ll just get a ton of extra sugar (ie carbs) that your body can’t use. Once your body maxes out its carb stores, your body will store the excess as fat.
- DATES ARE SUPER HIGH IN SUGAR, NOT A SUPERFOOD. Yes, they’re “all-natural” and they’re in absolutely everything, but they’re still 65-80% sugar (depending on variety). That means that “healthy” date ball is probably close to half sugar. Watch out!
- DON’T GET CONNED BY “NO REFINED SUGAR” AND “NO ADDED SUGAR” CLAIMS– THEY CAN BE REALLY MISLEADING. Although whole food sources of sweetness are usually preferable to most refined sugars (because they add benefits like fibre which slows down the breakdown), it doesn’t mean that the sugar doesn’t count. If a food is high in sugar, it’s high in sugar. Many “no added sugar” snack bars and balls are higher in sugar than conventional chocolate bars. Also, many brands use “no added sugar” claims very literally to mean that they just haven’t added table sugar– ie they are still adding sweeteners like agave.
- DON’T GET SEDUCED BY “ALL NATURAL” MARKETING CLAIMS, “ALL NATURAL” DOESN’T NECESSARILY EQUATE TO HEALTHY. Without a doubt, eat “all-natural” foods, but don’t assume that means they are healthy—particularly with processed snacks. Just because those millionaire bars are made with “all-natural” ingredients, doesn’t make them intrinsically healthy. Remember, the ingredients you use to bake at home are usually all-natural, but you’d never mistake a cake as being healthy. After all, table sugar is made from “all natural” sugar cane (or beets)!
- FIRST CHECK THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR USED, THEN THE TYPE OF SUGAR. The amount of sugar is the first priority, next is the type of sugar—ie how quickly that sugar will break down. Chose low Glycemic Index options that break down more slowly, offering a host of benefits from providing sustained energy to improving mood and concentration. The Glycemic Index rates foods 1-100, with pure glucose topping the scale at 100 and table sugar coming in around 60-70. The higher the GI number the quicker your body breaks it down, creating a sugar rush then crash. Many leading snack bars/balls are made with brown rice syrup which sounds healthy, but it has a GI of 98 so we’re talking serious sugar rush here. And many popular nut bars are wrapped in pure glucose syrup. Nibble, on the other hand, is made with low GI dried plums (GI of 29) and coconut nectar (GI of 35), that are slow releasing sources of sweetness.
by Gudrun Jonsson
Digestion guru, best-selling author of GUT REACTION, world-renowned biopath, and Nibble's blood sugar go-to!