When I look at contents of packaged foods on a nutrition label, the most important thing I care about is how much sugar is in the product. That’s because, for me, the sugar is what has the most impact of all the other items listed.
- I’m super fortunate not to have to worry about allergens.
- I generally get enough good nutrients that how much of that is not super important.
- I’m healthy enough, and have established a diet healthy enough, not to generally have to worry about bad fats (good summary of fats here);
- Sugar, everybody is prone to sugar, and easily prone considering how it’s practically everywhere!
Sugar on its own wouldn’t be all that bad, unless you were diabetic or have some other conditions affected by sugar. That’s because Mother Nature’s natural sugars are generally good for you, with everything being good in moderation, of course. It’s the refined, added sugars that are not… and that is all over the place in excess! This documentary from 2014 is still valid, in case you didn’t know some of this stuff! It was what first opened my eyes to the abundance of refined sugar everywhere, including many supposedly healthy organic granola that is loaded with sugar!
There are many more such cautionary sugar documentaries online, including this one from 2015.
As said, refined sugar added is the true culprit here. Often done so for taste, which would help sell the product if the consumer liked how it tasted, it is unnecessary, and probably impossible to remove if you didn’t want it. However, up to recently, in North America, there was no way to tell how much sugar in a product was added, and how much was natural. You could only rely on the amount of sugar in a product to decide whether to avoid it or not because there may be too much for your liking. For someone like me, then, I just had to assume it was all added as a “worst case scenario” in deciding whether or not to buy a product. That meant I might not buy some products I would have otherwise if I knew most or all of the sugar were natural, and I might buy one product over another if it had less added sugar but the same amount of sugar (or roughly). And I still don’t know how much added sugar I was consuming.
Recently, though, the United States required added sugar to be separated from total sugar on their packaged food’s nutrition labels. However, the same has not been done in Canada (CBC Marketplace story), and one could only assume that if the same product were sold in both countries, that the product here would have the same sugar added as the product sold in the US. It’s not always a true assumption, but what else could one go on? Assuming less sugar were added in many companies who wouldn’t disclose it citing the law that they didn’t have to, and the industry that pushed back against such proposed laws? Puh-leeze!
At this time, I’m not able to travel to the US to survey the common packaged foods I buy to see how much added sugar there is. It’s not a lot that I buy, but it’s not about me, just 37.5 million or so people of an entire nation who needs to see this. For some sampling that may provide some estimates for similar products, and plain old awareness if this were new information to you as it is for me:
- Liberte vanilla yogurt, estimated 14g added per 175g serving, with 5g estimated natural and 19g total sugar! Almost triple the sugar added compared to the natural amount that is assumed and may actually be lower? That’s a lot of sugar added! The values here are true of many other vanilla yogurts as well. I can count Activia and Iogo among those because I recently incorporated yogurt into my diet with nuts, and compared labels to see they were all identical for sugars. Interestingly enough, the sweeter tasting fruit flavours have less sugar, added and total, though the best yogurt to consume is the plain one with your own natural fruit added (or nuts in my case) for flavour. Plain yogurt from these brands all had 5g of sugar per 175g servings, assuming it were all natural.
- Campbell’s tomato soup, 8g added per 240 mL serving, with 4g natural and 12g total sugar. In Canada, at a 250 mL size, Campbell’s said it was 11g sugar added! We do have it sweeter here because the equivalent should have been only 8.3g. Ouch! I don’t usually eat canned soup these days so I’m safe here.
- Coca-cola vitamin water orange, estimated 27g added per 591 mL, with estimated 5g natural and 32g total sugar. This is basically in the same ball park as Campbell’s tomato soup, believe it or not! These drinks, like pop, are high in added sugar, but Campbell’s tomato soup being nearly equivalent? Thank good I don’t eat that soup, but if I did, I’d be done!
The food industry in Canada claimed that all sugars are metabolized in the same way, which may be true, but not likely as refined sugar is not the same as natural sugar. But even if it were true, a showing of how much these companies add unnecessarily, and depriving those who want a choice of how much to add, does the consumer no good. Give me the 4g of sugar version of Campbell’s tomato source! Let me decide how much sugar, and from what sources, I will want to add to it! I might just actually buy it!