Expert shares the ‘unexpected’ sources of sugars in Western diet

Whether you tuck into a chocolate bar or treat yourself to a slice of cake, it’s no surprise that sweet treats are rich in sugar. While it’s fine to have the sweet ingredient in small amounts, excessive sugar intake can hike your risk of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Worryingly, an expert has shared that the Western diet contains some “unexpected” foods packed in sugars that might seem inconspicuous.

Breakfast cereals

If you’re a fan of having a quick granola breakfast before you rush out of the door, Mark Gilbert, Commercial Nutritionist at The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan, has bad news for you.

This seemingly healthy breakfast staple, alongside four other popular foods, contains large amounts of sugar.

Gilbert said: “The most common sources of unexpected sugar in the Western diet are cereals, including granola and muesli.”

The nutritionist explained that the contents of these crunchy foods are often up to 30 percent sugar.

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He said: “Some have zero and are made of pure wheat or oats and some get over a third of their calories from sugar. 

“Another thing to be aware of is that just about everyone overestimates the serving size of cereal.

“Manufacturers may claim these foods to be low in calories, sugar and other unwanted nutrients but if you have the typical serving size, it will contain far more than intended.”

Unfortunately, the same applies to cereal bars, which are often one third or more sugar, Gilbert added.

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Low-fat yoghurt

These breakfast options are followed by low-fat yoghurt, which has “half of calories” coming from the sweet ingredient, the nutritionist explained.

He said: “Low-fat yoghurt can have half or more of its calories from sugar. Some of that sugar will be naturally occurring from the milk the yoghurt is made from. 

“So, check the ingredients list to see if sugar has been added as an ingredient.”

Fruit juice

The nutritionist added that another seemingly healthy staple – fruit juice – is not better with “almost all calories” coming from sugar.

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Baked beans

Last but not least, humble baked beans can also pack “over two teaspoons” of sugars per serving.

While all of these foods might come as a surprise, Gilbert added that the “most hidden” sources of sugar in the Western diet aren’t technically sugars at all.

He said: “They are highly-processed carbohydrates – rice and flour.

“These carbohydrates are composed of long chains of sugar called starch and some of them are broken down and absorbed so quickly that they have very similar effects on the body to eating actual sugar. 

“In reasonable amounts, these starches may be fine for people who are healthy, exercise regularly and are not overweight.

“But for those who don’t follow a healthy lifestyle, sugar and rapidly-absorbed starches cause large blood sugar fluctuations that increase the risk of ill health and obesity. 

“So, these foods are very likely a big contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics we find ourselves in today.”

To take control of your sugar intake back, the nutritionist recommended keeping an eye out for the foods above and checking their label.

“You can often find exceptions, which are low in sugar,” he added.

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