According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 1 in 5 adults in Southeast Asia were living with diabetes in 2017, with over 3.4 million cases in Malaysia alone. It’s important for us to understand what causes this chronic condition and how we can prevent and manage it.
Sugar affects the development of diabetes as it spikes your insulin level and can cause insulin impairment in the long run. It is also one of the major causes of obesity, increases the chances of heart disease and affects immunity. Over-consumption is a real problem for both children and adults and more countries are introducing a ‘sugar tax’ to combat this.
Unfortunately, we all consume sugar without realising it through processed and manufactured food from breakfast cereals and sauces to alcohol and even your favourite “healthy” smoothies. Food manufacturers are sneaky when it comes to adding sugar into their products, even those we think are healthier options. A good example of this is juice, which can contain enough added sugar to bring you well over the recommended daily intake, as they already have naturally occuring sugar from the fruit.
How to tell exactly what kind of sugar & how much of it is in our food
Read the ingredient list:
The easiest way to know if there is sugar in the product is to read the label and see if it’s one of the top ingredients. If it is, this means it’s a main ingredient.
Sugar has many names:
Food manufacturers use different types of sugars under various names; but sugar is sugar.
Sugar and its variants:
DRY - Sucrose, Glucose, Fructose, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Buttered sugar, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Caster sugar, Coconut sugar, Corn sweetener, Crystalline fructose, Date sugar, Dextran, Malt powder, Ethyl maltol, Fruit juice concentrate, Golden sugar, Invert sugar, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Molasses, Muscovado sugar, Panela, Palm sugar, Organic raw sugar, Rapadura sugar, Evaporated cane juice, Confectioner's (powdered) sugar
SYRUP - Agave nectar, Carob syrup, Golden syrup, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Malt syrup, Maple syrup, Oat syrup, Rice bran syrup, Rice syrup
‘Healthy’ product claims:
With the healthy eating movement came manufacturers claiming to offer healthy or wholesome products. Not all healthy food products are what they claim to be so always read the label. Be aware of the following:
- Low-Fat and No/Zero Fat: this usually means they add sugar to replace the fat.
- No refined sugar added: refined sugar is also known as white sugar and has had the molasses has been removed. No refined sugar added could mean there are other types of sugar present.
Smaller serving size:
Check the serving size/portion. Manufacturers can make the amount of sugar seem lower by stating the serving size is less than it is.
- eg. amount of sugar is 5g per serving, but 1 serving is ONLY 1 cookie in the whole packet.
Added sugar combined with naturally occurring sugar:
For ingredients containing naturally occurring sugar, read the label to check for added sugar. This is a common practise and can be seen in products containing milk (yoghurt, flavoured milk) and fruit (juice, jam, smoothies).
Buying pre-packaged food is unavoidable for some, so take note of the following:
- Sugar limit should be 5g maximum per 100g
- Know what the exact serving size is
- If the ingredient list contains lots of chemicals or unrecognisable words, e.g. ethyl maltol, don’t get it
- Opt for natural food with minimal or no sugar added at all