Healthy? Find the Hidden Sugar in Your Food
Finding the hidden sugars in food helps your journey to better health. You avoid any sugars to your food. However, what about those hidden sugars?
According to Forbes, Americans consume a very unhealthy three pounds of sugar a week, amounting to 500 calories a day. ‘
Sodas account for about a third and other sweetened drink, candy, cakes, and cereals comprise about a quarter of this consumption.
However, that leaves about 1.25 pounds per week in other sugars. Where do we find these hidden sugars in food?
Sugar is addictive
Scientists have discovered that sugar is as addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. When we consume sugar, we feel a surge of energy or a high. Unfortunately, that surge does not last for long and we find ourselves feeling worse than before.
Food manufacturers use this fact to ensure we continue enjoying their products. Additionally, sugar helps with the color and texture of processed foods. It also extends the shelf life of many products.
Also Read: Diabetes-Inflammation Connection
Searching for hidden sugars in food
So how do we find these sugars that lurk in our foods? Let’s start with these hints.
- Sucrose sounds simple. And it is. It’s simply table sugar! Also known as cane sugar, sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. While glucose can be metabolized by every organ, the liver alone must break down fructose. Consumption of fructose leads to weight gain and many health issues.
- Evaporated cane juice isn’t any better. Derived from sugar cane syrup, it provides the same problems.
- Brown rice syrup, often labeled as organic, might sound healthy. After all, brown rice is good for you, right? Unfortunately, it’s still sugar. Additionally, even organic might contain arsenic.
- High Fructose Cane Syrup reveals its nature in its very name. Studies confirm its link to diabetes and obesity. Avoid this one!
- Fruit Juice, whether from concentrate or not, still contains sugar. Whole fruit is high in fiber which helps slow down the metabolism of the sugar, allowing your body to absorb it slowly. Take away the fiber and you are left with sugar juice. Skip the juice and grab an apple. An added bonus with the whole fruit is that it leaves you feeling full longer.
- Other additives ending in –ose, should also be avoided. Like sucrose, glucose and fructose, galactose, maltose, dextrose and lactose are all sugars. Some occur naturally in foods, such as lactose in dairy products. But sugar is sugar. You will find them in many processed foods. Manufacturers use them as with other sugars. Read labels carefully!
- Agave Nectar, considered by some as a natural sugar, frequently finds its way into natural baked goods. But agave nectar is not a health food. Higher in fructose than cane sugar, it doesn’t contain any more antioxidants or minerals than the other sugars. In fact, says Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, agave is 85 percent fructose. “Agave’s probably one of the worst,” Dr. Weil says. However, it does have a lower glycemic load than other sweeteners, so it causes a less drastic spike in blood sugar. Its extra sweet flavor also allows you to use a bit less for the same flavor.
- Blackstrap Molasses actually contains a fair amount of nutrients including vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper, selenium and a good dose of iron. Unfortunately, it is still sugar and must be treated as such.
- Maple Syrup or Sugar is a favorite with vegans. However, maple syrup offers the same sugar spike and health components.
But where are these additives lurking?
Reading labels brings a new appreciation for what you have been eating and drinking! It might even convince you to give up some favorites.
- Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce often contain more sugar than they do tomatoes. Additionally, look for a mixture of the worst sugars, including high fructose cane syrup, often abbreviated as HFCS. An attempt to find a healthy condiment leaves you completely frustrated.
- Yogurt is a healthy food, right? Well, read the label. Yes, you will usually find a high dose of sugar in all of your favorite brands.
- Pasta Sauces, Gravy Mixes contain a surprising amount of sugar and salt. Consider making your own at home. You might even choose to can your own versions for an quick and easy meal.
- Salad Dressings, like condiments and sauces, often contain added sugars. Make your own at home for a fresh, custom made flavor addition.
- Dried Fruit is a concentrated sugar source. Additionally, some dried fruit has an added sugar coating. Reach for that fresh fruit instead!
- Granola Bars and their other health food cousins often have dried fruit and added sugars. Bring the family together to make a homemade version
- Instant Oatmeal as well as other breakfast cereals, usually contain a hefty amount of added sugar. Oatmeal is a diabetics best friend. Make it fresh with oats in just minutes, adding a little fresh fruit for flavor. You’ll save money while avoiding all that sugar!
- Canned Foods come packed in added sugars. If fresh fruit is not an option, look for frozen or canned without any added sugars, including fruit juice. Failing that, drain and rinse before using.
- Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, and other sides usually contain large amounts of sugars in various forms. Make your own at home or opt for a steamed vegetable.
- Restaurant foods often contain heavy amounts of sugar, salt, fats, and possibly MSG. While they won’t come with a label, you can often choose food without gravy and sauces. Breads and even breading coating often add sugar. Look for meals prepared fresh and request that such additives be omitted.
Avoiding hidden sugars in food requires reading labels
Read labels, ask what is included, and be prepared to make changes to reduce your overall sugar intake. It is possible avoid hidden sugars in food by being diligent. When in doubt, find recipes to try at home!