Healthy Eating Guidelines
Sugars Content of Foods
Sugars Content of Pre-packaged Foods
The sugars content of pre-packaged foods can be obtained using the Nutrition Facts table which must display the amount of Calories and 13 core nutrients, including sugars. “Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts table represents the total of all monosaccharides (e.g. glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (e.g. sucrose, lactose) present in foods. This includes the naturally-occurring sugars present in milk, fruits and vegetables; and sugars added to foods such as table sugar, honey or corn syrup.
Sugars Content of Various Fruits and Vegetables
It is commonly believed that fructose is primarily found in fruits and that sucrose is mainly added to foods during manufacturing. In fact, almost all fruits and vegetables naturally contain sucrose, as well as glucose and fructose, in varying amounts. For example, bananas, sweet peas and peaches contain primarily sucrose, whereas glucose and fructose are the main sugars in pears and tomatoes. While sucrose is found in almost all plants, sugar cane and sugar beets store sucrose in the greatest quantities and thus are harvested as the commercial sources of sugar. The following chart summarizes the sugars content of various fruits and vegetables.
Source: USDA Nutrient Laboratory, Sugar Content of Selected Foods.
Naturally Occurring vs. Added Sugars
‘Naturally occurring sugars’ (such as those found in fruit) are often viewed as healthier than ‘added sugars’ (such as those added to cereals or yogurt). However, from a nutritional perspective all sugars, whether they are added or naturally-occurring, are equivalent. The various sugars that are added to foods have the same chemical make-up as the sugars as they occur in nature. They contain the same number of calories and are metabolized by the body in the same way. As an example, the sucrose found naturally in a banana is the same sucrose added to flavoured yogurt. The banana is packaged with micronutrients including potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, and the flavoured yogurt is packaged with micronutrients including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Nutrition Labelling, Health Canada.
- Nutrient Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture.