Food Trend – Sugar

The Bittersweet Truth

If you haven’t heard, sugar is the new enemy.

We’ve known for a long time that excess sugar consumption can lead to negative health effects including increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. While current recommendations include reducing your total sugar intake to 25 grams or less per day, sometimes it’s not so obvious how much you are actually consuming due to the various sources. Consider this: a large double-double provides 34 grams of sugar.

It gets trickier to understand when you do dive into label-reading for more information: free sugars, added sugars, naturally-occurring sugars, total sugar, sweeteners, and the list goes on. There are over 150 ways to label sugar including brown rice syrup, corn syrup, agave, apple juice, maltose, and isomaltose, giving even the most keen label readers a sugar rush headache. It’s also easy to overlook the hidden sugar cost of foods like condiments, sauces, and preserved proteins, that can easily provide double doses of your recommended intake.

In October 2016, Health Canada announced a new Healthy Eating Strategy, and will roll out a revamped Canada’s Food Guide in 2018 following extensive research and consultations with Canadians and health professionals. The food industry, however, is already responding to consumers’ increasing concerns around  excess sugar.

Product innovations are coming from even the largest corporations such as Nestlé, who have recently invested in scientifically engineering sugar molecules to provide an equal amount of sweetness without having to use nearly as much in the manufacturing of their products. Nestlé’s research has come about as a result of their promise to update the ingredient lists across a variety of their products in order to reflect cleaner labels and increased nutrition.

If you tuned into the Super Bowl this year, you may have noticed that the official title of the halftime show was not Pepsi, but Pepsi Zero Sugar (they also advertised their premium bottled water, Life Wtr, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for another issue). New beverage company, Bai, enlisted Justin Timberlake to highlight their product line of antioxidant beverages that do not include any artificial sweeteners, have 5 calories or less, and provide just 1 gram of sugar per serving. As a local alternative to traditional sodas, Heart Beet Organics sells flavoured kombucha at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market.

Although beverages are often the biggest culprit of added sugars, other product categories are making changes for the better. Breakfast cereals are struggling to find their place in the market since, historically, they have been used as a quick, sugar-laden energy booster in the morning. However, Made with Local, based in Halifax, NS and available at Sobeys across the Maritimes, offers natural alternatives to overly sweet breakfast options. Their line of Loaded Oats oatmeal has under 5 grams of sugar, ingredients are locally sourced, and it contains “no weird stuff”.

submitted photo: Made With Local

Expect to see more innovative products like these on the market as sugar taxes, like the ones implemented in California and Colorado in 2016, put pressure on global food manufacturers to change their product formulas and encourage consumers to make smart choices. As with everything, moderation is key. It’s important to read your labels; understand your food, especially packaged goods; and balance your sugar intake with lots of water, greens, whole grains and protein.