Let’s talk about free sugars

Free sugars are all sugars added to foods and drinks in any form whether added by you in homemade meals or by food manufacturers.

Free sugars are present in foods such as puff puff, fried sweet dumplings, taho, cakes, biscuits, sweets, sweet spreads and sauces, as well as sugars-sweetened soft drinks and malted drinks like Supermalt.

These types of foods can be enjoyed in moderation. Most people should aim to consume less often and in small amounts.

Free sugars also include sugars that are naturally present in all syrups (e.g. agave syrup), unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies, purees and pastes where the structure has been broken down.

Sugar found naturally in milk and dairy foods (i.e. the lactose in yogurt, cheese and milk) and whole fruit and vegetables (fresh, canned, frozen, dried with no added sugars) does not count as free sugars and we don’t need to cut down on these types of sugars.

These foods form an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Free sugars are sugars no matter what form it comes in (brown, white, syrup, honey, etc…) and in general, we should be mindful of how much we are consuming as high intake of free sugars are linked to poor dental health and other health issues.

Having said this, it’s not always easy to spot sugar on the ingredients list on food packagings as it has different names. Read my infographics below to read more…

As food labels on products list sugar as ‘total sugars’ it can be quite confusing to know how much of it is free sugars. Normally, ingredients on food packagings are listed in descending order (highest to lowest) of weight, so if a type of sugar appears near the beginning of the ingredients list, the product is likely to have more free sugars than one in which added sugars are at the end.

While it’s important not to demonise white/ regular sugar, it’s also important not to put health halos on other forms of sugars. If you rather have honey than regular white sugar, that’s absolutely fine…you can still enjoy but in moderation. Also worth mentioning that there’s nothing wrong a sugary snack or drink once in a while…you can continue to enjoy in moderation!

A limited intake of free sugar (whatever type) will not cause any harm though.

Having said this, its important not to solely focus on the sugar content of food or think too much about the ingredients list. Look at food as a whole and focus on achieving a variety of different foods from the different food groups (like fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein and dairy or non-dairy alternatives) as well as within each food group.

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