Let me preface this post by saying it’s no secret that I love sugar and I would be the last person to advocate a completely sugar-free diet. I’m a proponent of the “sugar in moderation” approach: some maple syrup in homemade granola bars, peach crisp at a family gathering, splitting dessert with your significant other on date night are all fine and dandy!
But all the sugar in processed foods these days is an entirely different ball game. From kids’ breakfast cereals to fruit “beverages” to super-sized soft drinks at movie theatres to yogurt with more sugar per serving than a chocolate bar… sugar is everywhere! And this is a problem for our waistlines and our health.
Luckily Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation thinks so too, as they just recently released a new position statement on “Sugar, Heart Disease and Stroke”. This statement urges people, the government, and food industries alike to make some big changes, and I think it has the potential to be a giant leap forward in the battle on sugar .
Photo credit: heartandstroke.com
To save you the trouble of reading it (although it’s a good read if you have time), I’ve broken out the parts that are important for you to know:
1. It uses the term “free sugars” instead of “added sugars”
- “Free sugars” = any sugars added to a food, including sugars naturally found in fruit juice
- “Added sugars” = any sugars added to a food, not including fruit juice
I think this is an important distinction because adding fruit juice to a product is still adding sugar. I mean, should we really be saying gummy fruit snacks are a healthy choice just because they’re made with added fruit juice? No!!! So kudos to the Heart and Stroke Foundation for going with the stricter definition that includes added fruit juice as something that should be limited.
2. It recommends limiting free sugars to less than 10% and ideally less than 5% of total calories
This is consistent with the World Health Organization’s recommendations from earlier this year. However, both these recommendations are a huge difference from the Institute of Medicine’s dated recommendation to keep added sugars less than 25% of total calories. Let’s think about that for a minute. If you eat 2000 calories per day, that means 500 calories (or 119 g – about 30 tsp!) can come from added sugar… which is the equivalent of more than 3 cans of Coke. I think that’s a bit excessive for a healthy upper limit, don’t you?
Keeping sugar less to than 10% of calories (or 48 g – about 12 tsp) is a much better recommendation to help prevent some of the health issues associated with excess sugar, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But it might not be easy to stick to. You’d be surprised how quickly your sugar intake can add up to 48 g without even drinking pop or eating dessert!
For example you would be getting more than 48 g of free sugar if you ate a cup of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, a serving of vanilla Greek yogurt, chicken with barbecue sauce, a tablespoon of regular peanut butter, a salad with bottled dressing, and a granola bar over the course of a day, amongst other foods. That doesn’t sound like a crazy sugar-filled day does it? Yet it would be over your recommended free sugar intake of 10% of calories for a 2000 calorie diet.
So getting sugar intake down to this intake level is going to take more than recommendations and individual effort… it means the government and food industry is going to need to get involved too. Luckily the HSF considered this in their position statement:
3. It makes hefty recommendations to the government and food industry
- It recommends restricting marketing of all food and drinks to children
- It smacks down on sugary drinks by recommending a tax on sugary drinks as well as limiting their portion sizes at food service outlets to 500 mL
- It recommends the government create targets for the food industry to reduce free sugars in its products
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons
So that’s the gist of Heart and Stroke Foundation’s new position statement. I wholeheartedly agree with it and I’m glad to see such an influential organization making such a big statement against sugar. I hope it will be a stepping stone towards a healthier, less sugary future!
What do you think about these recommendations? Do you agree/disagree? Do you think these recommendations will spur government and food industry action?