Your food might not be as innocent as you think it is

Imagine this: You’ve just finished an intense workout at the gym, and your stomach’s rumbling. You decide to grab a quick snack because, #treatyourself, right? But wait a minute! That seemingly healthy granola bar or yoghurt that you’re grabbing may not be so healthy after all.

What you may not know about your favourite “healthy” bites is that these products may often be loaded with sugars. For instance, one serving of flavoured yoghurt could contain up to four teaspoons of sugar! Not convinced? What about your favourite packaged fruit juices? Many people have the impression that packaged fruit juices are full of fibre but the truth is, most of the fibre and nutrients removed during the processing, thus lowering its nutritional value. And if you take a look at the ingredients list, it may contain fruit juice concentrates — which is actually a commonly found hidden sugar in such beverages.

Here’s why you should care about hidden sugars

A study conducted by four final-year students from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information found that 90% of young adults have a low to moderate awareness of hidden sugars in everyday packaged food products. So if you’re one of the 90%, here’s a short guide to get you started.

Hidden sugars may be confusing, we get that! They may not even have the word sugar in their names, making it harder to spot them. Hidden sugars refer to sugars that are either added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, or are sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Examples also include glucose, sucrose, agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup.

How to spot for hidden sugars

When it comes to nutritional panels, consider using the column that says per 100ml or per 100g when comparing similar products, such as different brands of juice or cereal.

Do take a look at the ingredients list that can be found on the packaging as well! Did you know that ingredients are listed in order of the quantities used, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount listed first, followed by descending order by those in smaller amounts? The first few ingredients should ideally never be sugar or any of the various names that sugar go by!

When you over-consume sugar, the consequences may be dire. Short-term consequences include spikes in blood sugar levels, experiencing a sugar rush and even an increase in hunger. In the long run, you may run the risk of contracting heart disease, dental caries, obesity and diabetes.

Hidden Sugars, Hidden Risks is a health communications campaign to highlight the presence of hidden sugars in packaged food and drinks. Led by four final year students from Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, the campaign seeks to educate young adults in identifying the various forms of hidden sugars and encourage informed healthier alternative purchases.