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How Much Sugar is In Your Muesli?

Sunday, April 08, 2018

 

How Much Sugar is in Your Muesli? + What is the Lowest Sugar Muesli on the Market? 

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How Much Sugar Is In Your Muesli?

Deciding to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, or give it up completely for a period of time is one of the best things you can do for your health. Quitting sugar can help to increase your natural, sustained energy, find the best natural weight for your body, avoid the 3pm energy slump and improve your skin and gut health.

However, giving up sugar can be harder than you may think. Not because you aren't strong enough (you are) but because sugar can be found in so many products. Sugar is hidden in many food products you don’t even realise, from savoury sauces and snack bars to breakfast cereals, and even muesli, which is so often thought to be the ‘healthy’ breakfast option.

By being aware of where sugar can be found and paying attention to how much you consume is a great way to make sure what you are putting in to your body is supporting your health goals. Let’s have a look at the benefits of living a sugar free lifestyle, other names for sugar you might not know and how much sugar is too much.

Muesli is one of the top food products where you might be overlooking the amount of sugar you are consuming so in this blog we’ve done some research on popular mueslis and share with you the low down on just how much sugar is in your muesli and which is the lowest sugar muesli on the market. 

Sugar and Your Health

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet can have a myriad of health benefits including:

  • Increased and sustained daily energy; 
  • Improved gut health; 
  • Natural fat loss; 
  • Clearer skin; 
  • Improved hunger/satiety control - ie. no cravings! 
  • Clearer thinking (no more brain fog!) 
  • Improved liver function, 
  • Reduced risk of metabolic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, alzheimer’s, PCOS; 
  • Fewer dental caries; 
  • Improved blood sugar control and increased insulin sensitivity; 
  • Improved blood lipid (cholesterol) markers. 

Hidden Sugar In Foods

In many cases it’s clear which food products contain lots of sugars - cakes, biscuits, lollies etc. - and we know to minimise or avoid these foods. However, hidden sugars are found in many food products you might not think, including mueslis. With so many different names for ‘sugar’ it can be hard to navigate the labels. Did you know there are 40+ different types of sugar regularly added to food products? We’ve put the most commonly used sweeteners (sugar) in table 1 with those we see most commonly in bold, so you can see just how easy it is to overlook how much sugar we are actually consuming.

Table 1 - Types of added sugars found in food products (bold = most common) 

agave syrup/nectar      barley malt      beet sugar       blackstrap molasses
brown sugar       caster sugar      raw sugar      coconut sugar
cane sugar      icing sugar      demerara sugar      invert sugar/syrup
muscovado sugar      palm sugar      panela sugar      powdered sugar
rapadura sugar       carob syrup      coffee sugar crystals      corn syrup
dates, date sugar,
date syrup 
     dextrose      evaporated cane juice      fructose
fruit juice      fruit juice concentrate      glucose syrup      golden syrup
grape sugar/syrup      high fructose corn syrup 
     honey       lactose
malt      maltose      maple syrup       natural sweetener
rice syrup      sucrose      treacle      turbinado 

 

So How Do You Easily Avoid or Minimise These Hidden Sugars?

  • Stick to real and fresh food as much as possible. 
  • Try to limit how much food you eat from a packet unless you can identify the ingredients. If you don’t recognise an ingredient or can’t pronounce its most likely not good for your body. 
  • Check your labels. If you do buy some packaged food, check the ingredients. Ideally the list of ingredients should include all food ingredients you would recognise in your kitchen (as close to their natural state as possible). 
  • Pay attention to how much sugar per 100g is on the nutrition label (keep reading below for more info on this).

How Much is Too Much Sugar?

The World Health Organisation recommends limiting added sugars (also known as ‘free sugars’) to under 5% of your daily energy intake. This works out to be approximately 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men, and of course less for children. This includes sugars that are added AND natural sugars such as honey and fruit juice. Note, this WHO recommendation does not include naturally occurring sugar found in fruit and vegetables.

6 teaspoons = approximately 25g

These amounts are a limit so ideally we should stick below these.The World Health Organisation says “A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.”

Australian food labels must tell the consumer not only what ingredients are in the food product, but also the sugar content. This is where we can take responsibility for our purchases and checking these labels for the ingredient content and sugar content.


For a product’s sugar content it’s best to refer to the “100g” column of the nutrition panel as this allows you to compare products to one another (not all products have the same serving size). You can see in the example nutrition panel below, this product above contains 11.8g sugar per 100g. You can see from the ingredients list that this is coming from added sugars; sugar, malt extract and honey.

It’s important to be aware that mueslis containing dried fruits have higher sugar content, not necessarily because of added sugars, but due to the natural sugars contained in the fruit. We recommend keeping sugar intake to a minimum.

When it comes to muesli, generally for a low sugar muesli look for one that contains 5g per 100g sugar (5%) or less.


How To Choose Your Muesli 

Aside from the overall sugar content and source (natural vs added) of a packaged muesli, it’s also important to consider the other ingredients. Does the muesli contain highly processed oils, flours or artificial preservatives? Ingredients like this can also negatively impact your health. 



When shopping for a muesli, here’s what to consider:

  • Are there any added sugars?
  • Are there added poor quality oils? 
  • Limit dry fruit (high in sugar). 
  • Watch out if dried fruit is high up in the ingredient list; 
  • Does it contain beneficial healthy fats from things like nuts, seeds and coconut (this will keep you fuller for longer and not hungry an hour after)? 
  • Look for higher protein muesli (also found in nuts, seeds as well as higher protein grains such as buckwheat or quinoa); 
  • Check the serving size (an entire bowl is usually much more than a serving size, instead add your own fresh toppings such as berries, 1/2 sliced banana or kiwi); 
  • Are the ingredients raw or roasted (ideally raw is nutritionally best)? 
  • Don’t be influenced by nutritional claims on the package, turn it over and check the ingredients. 
  • 
Again watch out for anything ‘added’.
  • Are there artificial sweeteners, preservatives, cheap oils etc? 
  • Are these ingredients what you would identify as ‘real food’? Are these ingredients close to their natural state (minimal human interference)?

Muesli can be a healthy choice if you choose right! Muesli can provide a delicious breakfast option rich in good fats (such as from nuts and seeds), fibre (which is great for your digestive system and supports a healthy weight and blood sugar levels) and contain plant-based protein (such as from nuts or chia seeds), all of which are beneficial to your health. 

The Comparison

We did a review of 10 popular Australian muesli products and for learning purposes we wanted to highlight just how important it is to pay attention to your labels and be aware of what’s often found in breakfast muesli. See table 2 below for a comparison of sugar content and ingredients found in these popular mueslis. Just to give you an idea, we’ve highlighted the sugar content per 100g as well as added ingredients. Pay attention to this column particularly and note how many are over the recommended amount of 5% sugar (5g per 100g). Keeping in mind we ideally want to choose muesli with a low sugar content and ones without added ingredients such as poor quality oils and preservatives.

Table 2 - 10 popular muesli products compared (brand names have been removed)

Muesli Description                          Sugar
/100g    Other Ingredients 

1. "Gluten Free Maple Muesli"
      Marketed as: 
     - source of fibre 
     - no artificial colours or flavours

10.3g                     fructose, emulsifier, sugar, golden syrup,
maple syrup, antioxidant, natural flavours,
molasses

2. "Natural Bircher Muesli" 
     
Marketed as:
     - source of fibre and protein 
     - low GI 
     - 100% natural ingredients 

 

16g vegetable oil 
3. "Sugar- Free Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - 64% Nuts, Seeds & Coconut 
     - 1.6% naturally occurring sugar
     - Fructose Free
     - 15.5% Protein

1.6g none
4. "Gluten Free, Sugar-Free Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - 64% Nuts, Seeds & Coconut
     - 1.9% Naturally Occurring sugar
     - Fructose Free
     - 16.6% Protein 

1.9g none
5. "Natural Style Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - source of fibre
     - No artificial flavours 

16.4g sugar, food acid, preservative, glucose,
malt extract, emulsifier
6. "Fruit Toasted Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - source of fibre
     - star-rated goodness

23.3g  vegetable oil, preservatives, glucose, raw sugar,
canola oil, natural flavour
7. "Bircher Muesli with Fruit and Nuts" 
     Marketed as:
     - source of fibre 
     - no artificial colours or flavours

14.4g preservatives
8. "Natural Muesli" with summer fruits, chia 
and yoghurt pieces

     Marketed as:
     - source of fibre and protein
     - no artificial colour or flavours

11.4g concentrated apple puree, concentrated
apple juice, concentrated mango puree,
citrus fibre, natural flavour, pectin, vegetable oil,
emulsifier, triticale, sugar, vegetable fat, yoghurt
powder, soy lecithin, preservative

9. "Crunchy Nutty Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - Fruit free, no honey muesli 
     - High fibre
     - Fructose friendly 
     - Natural ingredients

13.6g raw sugar, glucose, brown sugar, sunflower oil,
starch 
10. "Premium Muesli"
     Marketed as:
     - High fibre, source of calcium 
     - Source of vitamin E and Folate
     - No artificial colours or flavours
21.4g sugar, sunflower oil, sunol oil, maltodextrin,
emulsifier,
barley malt extract, preservatives


We found (as you can see above) that there were 2 mueslis that really stood out as the lowest sugar muesli on the market; products 3 and 4. These are both mueslis made by The Muesli. The Muesli is also a completely natural product based on real food ingredients; we couldn't find any questionable ingredients at all! There muesli contains whole food ingredients such as nuts, seeds, coconut. As a bonus, it’s also available in a Gluten Free version.


The Wrap

When choosing your muesli, always choose a muesli made with real food ingredients that contains as little sugar as possible and be aware of other added ingredients. We recommend all natural products like The Muesli Classic and The Muesli Gluten Free, as these are the lowest sugar packaged mueslis available on the market and they are made from completely natural ingredients with nothing added.

We hope these tips help you to become more aware of added sugars found in foods with our tips for choosing a low sugar muesli.  Let me know your questions in the comments below and other topics you might like me to share tips on. 

Casey-Lee x
Naturopath and nutritionist 

This blog post was proudly sponsored by The Muesli, helping us to bring you educated tools for living a healthier life. 

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