Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Day's sugar intake can hide in sauce

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Wattie's Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce — $4.29 for 3 x 220g cans

Wattie's Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce contains 4.2 teaspoons of sugar per serve.
Wattie's Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce contains 4.2 teaspoons of sugar per serve.

I'm happy to make the prediction that 2014 will be all about the sugar. Already sugar is being named as the new tobacco because it is so prevalent in our processed food, has many studies proving that it is contributing to type II diabetes and obesity across the world, yet the food industry and governments are refusing to limit consumption as they have previously done with fat, salt, alcohol and eventually tobacco.

The World Health Organisation has plans to reduce the recommended intake of sugar from 10 teaspoons a day to just five teaspoons a day because of concerns it is contributing to heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.

In 2010, the New Zealand Medical Journal published an article where Simon Thornley and Hayden McRobbie estimated that New Zealanders were eating 32 teaspoons of sugar a day.

This may sound shocking but when you consider that one can of Coke has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, you can begin to understand that much of the sugar we consume is hidden in beverages and processed foods.

The fight against sugar has just begun, with high profile scientists and doctors behind the group Action on Sugar calling for governments and food industries to cut the sugar content of food and drinks by up to 30 per cent.

If you have a spare 90 minutes type "Robert Lustig fructose" into YouTube and watch his address on what sugar does in our bodies.


Ingredients

Navy beans (50 per cent) - These are also known as haricot beans and are very good for you. They are high in protein and fibre and digest slowly so that you feel full longer. A meal of haricot beans gives you good levels of carbohydrates and protein. And according to the label this can will provide "at least of the daily folate and at least of the daily iron needs of an average adult."

Tomato sauce (tomato puree, sugar, salt, wheat flour, maize thickener (1412), vegetable gums (412,466), spices and spice extracts, flavours) - Beans wouldn't have much flavour if you didn't add the tomato sauce. But this is where we are in for a big surprise. The second ingredient in the sauce is sugar. In fact one 220g serve of these baked beans (which is the whole can) will deliver 18g of sugar. I had to re-check this figure I was so astounded. So that is 4.2 teaspoons of sugar per small can. Which, if we are following WHO's new recommendations, would be most of your sugar allowance for the day. The other ingredients in the sauce are distarch phosphate (1412), guar gum (412) and sodium carboxymethylcellulose (466) which is extracted from green plants and algae. And there are some artificial flavours as well.

My recommendations

Beans are good for you, but eating them in a high-sugar sauce like this can defeat the good work. Look for low-sugar baked beans produced by Heinz or imported US varieties in health shops, or make them yourself from a number of recipes online.

Highlights
• 4.2 teaspoons of sugar per serve.
• 50 per cent beans.
• High in fibre, iron and protein.

- NZ Herald

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