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All About Sugar

What is sugar?

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that breaks down into a molecule called glucose which is the body’s preferred source of energy.  Foods can contain either naturally occurring sugar such as in fruit, vegetables or milk or added sugar such as in pop or confectionery.  

What are the different types of sugar?

  • Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose
  • Disaccharides: sucrose, maltose, lactose

On food labels the term “sugars” refers to all monosaccharides and disaccharides naturally occurring or added to foods.  It does not refer to sweeteners such as aspartame or sugar alcohols such as sorbitol.

Spotting Sugars on Your Food Label

When reading the food label, sugar is not always listed by its exact name of “sugar”.  There are many forms in which sugar can appear on the food list.  Review the chart below for some examples of common sugar ingredients that you may find on your packaged food products.  

TIP: words ending in “ose” are likely sugars (for example dextrose).

Types of sugars-based ingredients found on the label

What do the different sugar claims mean on food packages?

Claim

Meaning

Free of sugar claims such as: sugar free, no sugar, zero sugar

Less than 0.5g of sugar or <5 calories per serving

No added Sugar

No sugar has been added to the food.  Only naturally occurring sugars are present

Reduced sugar/Lower in Sugar:

The food has 25% less sugar per serving compared to the original product or a similar product

Unsweetened

No sugar or artificial sweeteners have been added to the product

 

Upcoming changes to the Canadian Nutrition Facts Tables and Ingredient lists:

Health Canada has released updated regulations which will impact sugar in two ways:

  1. On the Nutrition Facts Table there will be a % Daily Value added to sugar rather than overall carbohydrates
  2. All added sugar will be grouped together in the ingredient list for easy recognition for the consumer
Nutrition Facts label, sugar included

What is the upper limit for the amount of total sugar consumed per day?

For a healthy eating pattern, Health Canada recommends that you do not consume over 100g of sugar per day from all sources of sugar. 100g of sugar is not a mandatory or recommended intake but rather the maximum total amount that one should strive to stay under. Sugars on food labels that show >15% mean there is ‘a lot’ of sugar in that product. Those showing <5% means ‘a little’ sugar is present.

Ever wonder what eating 100g of sugar a day looks like?

Click on the link below to view some sample meal plans below created by Registered Dietitians for the Canadian Sugar Institute.

https://sugar.ca/sites/default/uploads/files/Canadian-Sugar-Institute_The-Sweet-Spot-CHALLENGE-Booklet.pdf

References:
  1. Canada, H. (2018, February 9). Sugars. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/sugars.html.
  2. The Canadian Sugar Institute. (n.d.). Nutrition Labelling and Claims. Nutrition Labelling and Claims - The Canadian Sugar Institute. https://sugar.ca/sugars-consumption-guidelines/nutrition-labelling-and-claims.