Nutrition labels on our groceries are confusing, misleading and even lacking some vital information – and it’s no coincidence. Here’s how “big sugar” is keeping us hooked on the sweet stuff, and what you can do about it.
It can be difficult to decode the numbers and terminology used on nutritional labels, along with navigating the different kinds of sugars – some labels don't even differentiate between added and naturally occurring sugars. After looking at these labels, many of us end up more confused than before. We shouldn’t have to consult google just to decipher a simple nutrition label!
Serving sizes are also misleading and often far smaller than what anyone would actually eat. Most of us aren’t stopping at a single square of chocolate, right? Plus, when's the last time you ate 1.5 pieces of bread? But when you calculate the sugar content of your actual serve, you’ll see how easy it is to go over the recommended limit. Many of us will read the nutrition labels and think a product is lower in sugar than it really is – and that’s intentional. It means we’ll keep buying that product and eating a lot more than our bodies can handle.
There’s also a lot of confusion around the government Health Star Rating System – with many shoppers only recently realising the rating is not of the individual product, but a comparison rating for that product’s group. Many were dumbfounded upon seeing some cheeses rated at 2 out of 5 stars, while some confectionery and sugar-laden cereals managed to score a rating on the higher end of the scale. While the system can be beneficial when used properly, the issue is that only 20% of people were able to understand the system’s purpose, according to a survey.
All of these inconsistencies in labelling contribute to misunderstandings among shoppers, along with poor-decision making – even when we’re trying to eat healthily. With so-called “health foods” packed with sugar, confusing labels are more dangerous than ever.
Why this is a problem
Excess sugar consumption can lead to a range of debilitating diseases, and with many of us unknowingly consuming too much of the sweet stuff, none of us are impervious to the risks. Affecting 1.9 billion people, it’s no coincidence that rising obesity rates occurred alongside the rapid rise in sugar consumption. In fact, studies have shown a direct link between the condition and excessive fructose intake. Type 2 diabetes is another massive health crisis around the globe, and considering Aussies are throwing back 15 teaspoons of added sugar each day, it’s no surprise that rates are through the roof.
To make matters worse, it’s proven that excess sugar intake leads to insulin resistance; the precursor to type 2 diabetes. The increasing amount of added sugar in commercial products is one of the main culprits of this phenomenon, according to research.
With 25% of the population suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, this is another major consequence of all this excess sugar hiding in our food. More concerning yet, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is predicted to projected to become the leading cause of cirrhosis within the decade – and we’re pointing the finger at sugar.
But sugar isn’t just damaging our physical health, our mental health is at risk too. Studies have shown rates of depression are higher in those who eat a high-sugar diet, while another study shows this same diet leads to higher rates of anxiety too. If that’s not convincing enough, researchers also found that people who drank 2 soft drinks a day had stress hormone levels 22% higher than those who did not. Sugar affects our entire bodies, head to toe. But there are a few things you can do to reduce your risks for these conditions.
What you can do
Opt for foods with the least amount of processing and always read the labels. Less than 5 grams of sugar per serve is best, but ideally go for products without added sugars. For instance, go for plain yoghurt over flavoured yoghurt. Choosing whole foods is one way to know exactly what you’re eating - take a look at some of the foods to drop into your shopping basket:
- Whole fruits and veggies: The fibre in whole produce slows down our bodies’ absorption of the sugars, which takes the strain off our livers.
- Whole grains: These grains provide slow-release energy, keeping you fuller for longer and curbing those cravings. Quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are all good options.
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans are just a few of the great options to add some bulk and protein to your plate.
- Dairy and eggs: These are packed with nutrients and, in moderation, make for a satiating addition to your diet.
- Fermented foods: Kimchi, Sauerkraut and yoghurt are all packed with probiotics which protect our gut, helping to reduce sugar cravings.
Need a hand kicking a sticky sugar addiction? We’re here to help. Join us for our 8-Week Program where we’ll be ditching sugar and taking back control of our health. When you sign up to the program, you’ll have access to extensive plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of expert-crafted meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support from the I Quit Sugar team, plus our panel of experts.
- Mental and physical health benefits that last a lifetime.
If you’re ready to transform your health and say goodbye to sugar crashes, JOIN NOW!