The hidden sugar in South African fast food

Sugar has been dubbed the food villain of our time, with links to heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity in both adults and children.

Boston-based Tufts University recently published research which found that sugar – sugary drinks in particular – may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year globally.

The World Health Organisation’s guidelines on sugar recommend that less than 10% of an adult’s daily intake be sugar.

The WHO’s guideline recommends a daily intake for an adult of 8,800 kilojoules – with sugar covering 16kJ per gram. This means that adults should not be ingesting more than 55 grams of sugar per day.

However, in March 2015, the WHO updated its guideline to recommend that adults reduce their sugar intake to as little as 25 grams – or 6 teaspoons – a day.

South Africa has a plethora of popular fast food outlets, while fizzy drinks, ice creams, cakes, chocolate, and condiments are all common in our daily diets.

Food chains have sugar loaded into meals where you may least expect it.

BusinessTech looks at the sugar content in fast food meals from six of the country’s most popular chains.

Note: Sugar content below does not necessarily reflect added sugar, but is the sugar content as served.

KFC – a.m. Deluxe Burger – 8.4 grams (33.6% of RDI)

KFC AM Deluxe

The Sweet Chilli Twister carries 18.2 grams of sugar in it. But just a normal burger from KFC – carries between 4 grams (Crunch Burger) and 9 grams (Double Crunch Burger) of sugar.

The worst offender is the Hawaiian Burger (thanks to the pineapple) at 11.1 grams of sugar – but the most surprising is the Deluxe breakfast Burger, which contains 8.4 grams of sugar first thing in the morning.

Mcdonald’s – McRoyal Deluxe – 9.4 grams (37.6% of RDI)

McRoyal Deluxe

Beverages are often the biggest culprits when it comes to sugar content – and there are plenty of misconceptions about what is “healthy” to drink.

A small ice tea from Micky-D’s contains 39.6 grams of sugar – 158% of the recommended daily amount. That’s more than a small coke (33.3 grams of sugar – 133%).

Kauai – Grass Roots Wrap – 13.3 grams (53.2% of RDI)

KAU Grassroots wrap

Another healthy option, Kauai manages to avoid large amounts of sugar in its meals – but not all.

The group’s raw oat bircher contains 40.1 grams of sugar per serving – and if you’re keen on a smoothie, it contains up to 107 grams of sugar in a 500ml offering (Coffee Date smoothie), meaning you shoot way past the RDI (428%).

The chain’s grass roots wrap has a lot of healthy contents – but also a surprisingly high sugar content at 13.3 grams.

Update: In response to being featured in this article, Kauai has provided the following response.

The layout of the nutritional content of the Kauai menu items on the Kauai website is based on the requirements of the Regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs.

This regulation requires the total sugar content to be indicated. The total sugar is defined as the sum of all intrinsic and added sugars.

‘Intrinsic sugars’ are sugars that are naturally occurring and which form an integral part of certain unprocessed foodstuffs, the most important being whole fruits and vegetables, that are enclosed in the cell, (mainly fructose, glucose and sucrose) and which are always accompanied by other nutrients.

The ingredients used in the Kauai Grass Roots Wrap are mostly of vegetable origin, such as roasted beetroot, roasted butternut, kale, cos lettuce and radishes which all contain natural occurring sugars.

There is no added sugar in the recipe except for a little honey that is used in the dressing and the seed mix. The main source of the total sugar content of the Kauai Grass Roots Wrap is the roasted beetroot which does not contain any added sugar, only natural occurring sugars.

Nando’s – Veggie Burger – 14.3 grams (57.2% of RDI)

(Pictured is a normal Nando's Chicken Burger)
(Pictured is a normal Nando’s Chicken Burger)

Nando’s offers many meals that avoid sugar – its chicken comes with all of zero sugar. A side serving of coleslaw however, contains 17 grams of sugar.

As with Steers below, the biggest offender in the sugar department is the veggie burger, which has 14.3 grams per serving.

Steers – Spicy King Veggie Burger – 16 grams (64% of RDI)

(Pictured is a normal King Steer Burger)
(Pictured is a normal King Steer Burger)

Hold onto your seats veggie lovers – while the sweet basting on double rack of Steers pork ribs has the highest sugar content (22 grams), it’s not that surprising.

However, vegetarian burgers from the popular fast food chain leave the beef and chicken options in the dust. In fact veggie burgers contain double and triple the sugar content of their counterparts.

Roman’s Pizza – Small Tangy Russian pizza – 28 grams (112% of RDI)

RMN Tangy Russian

If you can eat an entire pizza, you are ingesting more than your RDI. Even on a per-slice basis, when it comes to sugar, pizzas can hit hard.

For a single slice of Tangy Russian pizza at Roman’s Pizza, you’re consuming 7 grams of sugar. If you have an entire small pizza (4 slices) – you’ve just flown past your RDI.

Wimpy, Burger King and Debonairs do not list sugar content as part of the nutritional breakdown in their respective nutritional guides. 

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The hidden sugar in South African fast food