We all know we need to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in saturated fat, sugar and salt to keep our weight, cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure in check. However, whilst cutting down on sugar may seem rather simple at first, it isn’t that straightforward. Of course, you can choose reduced sugar, low sugar or no added sugar products but you might not know where to start to make the right choices for you because the terminology can be confusing. Deciding on your personal objective is key.
- Sugar free means there is a minimal amount of sugar in the product, it does not mean there is zero sugar. For a food to be labelled “sugar free” it must contain no more than 0.5 g of sugar per 100 g or 100 ml. This includes naturally occurring forms of sugar and any ingredient that contains sugar. A key point to remember is that the claim ‘sugar free’ does not mean ‘carbohydrate free’.
- No sugar added (or no added sugar) means the manufacturer has not added any sugar to the product. It does not mean there is no sugar in the product. Although no sugar is added, there may be naturally occurring sugar in the food. Fruit juices, for instance, might claim “no sugar added” but if you quickly check the nutrition label, you’ll probably discover that it is pure sugar. Other products labelled as ‘no added sugar’ can also be sweetened with fruit juice such as grape juice concentrate or other sweeteners and can sometimes contain more carbohydrates and calories than a reduced sugar equivalent.
- Reduced sugar (or less sugar) products contain at least 30 per cent less sugar than the standard version of the product. Generally, the ingredient list in a standard product recipe and the reduced sugar version is the same; no other ingredients are added to make up for the reduction in sugar. You’re likely to notice however that the amount of certain ingredients has increased. In Streamline jams for instance, you’ll find 40% extra fruit; this is to ensure the flavour of the jam is the best it can be and that you get a similar size jar to ‘standard’ jams and not less overall jam in your jar.
- Low sugar products contain less than 5 g of added sugar per 100 g, or 2.5 g of sugar per 100ml. Low sugar foods may also contain sugar substitutes (or sweeteners) such as sorbitol. Keep in mind that not all low sugar foods are free from calories. Certain low sugar foods might actually be high in fat as this helps bring out the flavour in the food in the absence of sugar; others may contains nutritive sugar substitutes such as sorbitol. So if maintaining a healthy weight through calorie control is your objective, read the nutritional information as not all low sugar products will be relevant to you.
Reading the labels is the best way to make an informed choice. There is, however, a unanimous agreement that moderation is key when it comes to your intake of sugar, whatever the source, as overdosing on sweet stuff can lead to health issues later on down the line. So make smart choices that are right for you.