Sugar is ubiquitous in the food supply. Even foods that you don’t think are sweetened contain it, like bread and crackers. It is therefore easy to lose track of your sugar consumption if you don’t pay attention to the table of nutrition facts on the packaging.
Consumed in too great a quantity on a regular basis, sugar increases your risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and, of course, obesity.
Where is sugar hidden?
As well as in drinks, treats and desserts, sugar is found in many processed foods that aren’t usually considered as sweet, like cereal, bread, yogurt and granola bars. It may be hard to imagine, but a 100-gram container of yogurt with fruit can contain as much added sugar as five candies.
How do you know if you’re eating too much sugar?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended not to consume more than 10% of our total energy in the form of free sugars. What does this mean in concrete terms? For an average-sized adult, this equates to 50 grams of free sugars or 12 teaspoons. Free sugars include all added sugars in commercial products and in your recipes, in addition to the sugars naturally present in honey, maple syrup or fruit juice.
How does sugar affect our health?
First of all, sugar has an inflammatory effect on the body, which causes cells to oxidize, which shortens their lifespan. We all know that high sugar consumption has an impact on type 2 diabetes, but did you know that it is also linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases?
This is because excess sugar causes an increase in fat in the blood (triglycerides), cholesterol and blood pressure, all risk factors for heart disease. As for the liver, excess sugar accumulates there creating an engorgement or what is called fatty liver.
Sugary beverages are the principal source of excess sugar. According to the INSPQ (in French only), current scientific studies confirm once and for all a link between the consumption of sweetened beverages, excess weight and certain chronic diseases.
How can I reduce my sugar consumption?
There are endless amounts of super foods that are beneficial for your health, especially for the elderly. As for sugar replacement, here are a few recommendations from the INSPQ:
- Replace sugary beverages with those without added sugar like plain water, sparkling water, milk and plain vegetable-based beverages, herbal teas and unsweetened coffee.
- Choose whole fruits rather than just the juice.
- Consume sugary snacks and desserts less often and in smaller portions.
- Choose fresh or minimally processed foods for snacks and desserts.
Ideally, you would prefer to consume slow carbohydrates, in the proportions recommended by the new Canada's food guide. Whole grain foods like rice, pasta, bread and whole grain cereals are preferred. One of the benefits of these is the feeling of satiety they provide, and not to mention they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. After having consumed whole grain foods, you'll be less tempted to snack on a sweet treat!
They are also slowly absorbed by the body, providing you with all the energy you need for your daily activities, while the energy provided by the consumption of fast sugars dissipates quickly and can even cause severe fatigue.
Throughout life, try to make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day. It is still important to enjoy the taste of your food and the many food-related activities that go along with eating After all, eating is one of the pleasures of life, isn't it? That said, being aware of the effects of the foods we eat every day is essential in order to age healthy. No food is bad. Everything is in moderation!