That ‘health’ bar you’re about to eat? It may not be as healthy as you think!
‘You are what you eat’. The message behind this saying is that the food you consume will eventually reflect your physical well-being. Limiting the amount of fats, sugar, carbohydrates and processed food is a good way to maintain a healthy diet.
However, did you know that at times, foods that contain high levels of sugar come ‘disguised’ as healthy options? This means you may be eating sugary food and not even know it! The next thing you know, your waistline has expanded and your doctor has informed you that your blood sugar is at a worrying level.
Be it from a natural or processed source, an excessive intake of sugar in your diet can adversely affect your health, with one of the biggest concerns being diabetes. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease which arises from high levels of sugar in your blood. It can affect your overall health from your eyes and right down to your toes. Chief Dietitian at Prince Court Medical Centre, Datin Farah Diba Khan reveals the details about hidden sugar.
What you should know
Sugar is not a good nor bad type of food. “Sugar does have its benefits such as it gives a person energy,” explains Datin Farah. In other words, including some sugar in your diet is okay if you are fit and healthy. However, an excessive intake of sugar can lead to several serious health issues. “For instance, excessive sugar can cause tooth decay and it can also contribute to other medical conditions such as diabetes.”
So, how much is ‘too much’ of sugar?
Datin Farah notes that the amount of sugar to consume depends very much on your lifestyle. It is important to keep in mind that sugar does not have any nutritional content. In fact, sugar is sometimes called ‘empty calories’. Hence, it is important to be smart with the type of sugar you’re consuming.
There are various types of sugar available, from refined sugar such as white sugar to natural sources such as fruits. However, even if the sugar you’re eating comes from a natural sources, this does not mean that you have the green light to indulge excessively as it can also lead to a rise in blood sugar levels. “Although, sugar from natural sources, generally contain fewer calories and you’re able to enjoy other benefits too such as vitamins and fibre too, ” says Datin Farah.
“Another fact about sugar which everyone should take note of, especially among diabetics, is that carbohydrate converts to sugar when digested in your body,” warns Datin Farah. “This gives you energy but if you consume too much of it, your pancreas will not be able to produce a sufficient amount of insulin to balance out your blood sugar levels.”
Hiding in plain sight
This is why it is important to know exactly what you’re consuming and to identify the presence of hidden sugar in your diet. When it comes to natural food sources, some food that have high carbohydrate content such as rice, potatoes, bread, yam and the king of fruits, durian contain hidden sugar. For processed food on the other hand, hidden sugar is usually present in products such as cereals, those labelled as ‘low-fat’, bottled fruit juices and baked goods such as pastries.
One good way to identify hidden sugar is to read the food label before making a purchase. “Corn syrup, fructose, artificial sweeteners and lactose are some terms used to represent sugar,” reveals Datin Farah. Another way for you to avoid hidden and added sugar in your diet is to eliminate them altogether. “Try not to order drinks with any added sugar and don’t add flavoured syrup such as caramel and hazelnut. If you must have your drink sweetened, add no more than one teaspoons of brown sugar and this should apply to only one drink a day.”
It is difficult to control your sugar intake entirely, understanding that just about every type of food contains some form of sugar. “All you need to do is to take everything in moderation. Eating anything excessively can do more harm than good,” advises Datin Farah.
The truth about sugar in local favourites
Does a Crème Caramel pudding contain more sugar than a bowl of red bean soup? A study conducted by Prince Court Medical Centre on the amount of sugar present in some of our local favourites may shock you!