Be wary of the hype about natural sweeteners, writes Katie Clift of Cancer Council Queensland.

These sugar substitutes have been hailed as a healthy solution to our sweet cravings, with global soft drink companies releasing new drinks marketed at health-conscious cola consumers.

Major ad campaigns for products containing the sweetener stevia have recently hit our screens, promising percentage reductions in sugar and calorific content.

While the marketing sweet-wash may seem convincing, products with sugar substitutes can still contain significantly more sugar than you should consume in one day.

Did you know that one 375ml can of a stevia-sweetened soft drink has more than five teaspoons of sugar? That’s 22 grams, people!

You may have seen the new World Health Organisation guidelines recommending sugar intake be limited to less than 10 per cent of your total energy intake to reduce risks of overweight and obesity.

According to the WHO, a further reduction to below five per cent, or about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide us with additional health benefits.

Many products contain more than 20 grams of sugar per serve – making it too easy to consume our total daily intake of sugar in just one sugary snack or sweetened drink.

Even some savoury items may catch us by surprise. Some brands of tomato sauce, for example, contain five grams of sugar in just one tablespoon.

Holy pie, I hear you say!

Often, many of the products marketed to us as ‘healthy’ contain high levels of sugar, fat and sodium and should only be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

And keep an eye out for hidden sugars – disguised on nutritional panels under other names like glucose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup and fruit concentrates.

It’s important to stay informed, scan for sugar on product labels, and limit your intake to about 25 grams, or six teaspoons, or less per day (depending on your individual energy needs).

Limiting sugar in your diet is proven to reduce risks of overweight and obesity, and chronic diseases such as cancer.

Up to one third of all cancers can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

So let’s learn to read the labels, spot the sugars, cut our consumption and stay healthy!

For more information about sugar substitutes, call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20.