Hiding in processed food by using a number of aliases, sugar is sneaking into the Canadian diet and it’s causing bitter health repercussions.
On average, Canadians consume almost four times the daily recommended amount of sugar, which can lead to major health consequences such as a suppressed immune system, diabetes, various types of cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease, according to registered dietician, Andrea D’Ambrosio, and the most recent report from Statistics Canada.
Much of the problem is that people don’t realize how much sugar they are consuming because they can’t identify it, said Cindy Neville, a registered holistic nutritionist working at Good Health Mart in Burlington.
“Some people don’t know what sugar is,” she said. “They see maltodexrin on a label but don’t think, ‘Oh, that’s sugar.’”
Sugar appears on nutrition fact tables under a variety of guises such as glucose, fructose, galactose, dextrose, corn syrup, maltose, levulose and turbinado, said Maria Pelliccia, Humber professor and registered dietician.
Things like juice, granola bars and protein bars often have a healthy label on them, but in fact are quite unhealthy because they contain such high amounts of sugar, she said.
“Juice is the culprit of a lot of people’s weight gain,” said Pelliccia. “When the sugar is stripped out of the fruit and vegetables you’re taking out all that fiber, so you’re taking away the body’s way of processing it and so you get a sudden rise in blood sugar levels and you may get a sudden dip as well.”
“People should be eating things without food labels, that’s the goal,” said Pelliccia. “Fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, fresh meat and whole grains.”
Natural sources of sugar such as raw honey, dates, maple syrup, Sucanat and molasses are better to use than refined processed sugar because they have some vitamins and minerals, said Neville.
Still, “sugar is sugar,” she said.
Sweeteners are also an option for those looking to decrease their sugar intake, said Pelliccia.
“A lot of them are safe, and they have no calories and do not impact your blood sugar levels,” she said.
When it comes to things like artificial sweeteners people still need to exercise caution, however, because all substances are toxic in high enough doses, said Pelliccia.