There are 600,000 food items in the United States and 80% of them have added sugar. Yikes! Before we begin, take a look at the food label on your left. This is the actual Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list of a well-known breakfast bar. The name of it alone leads consumers to believe it’s a seemingly healthy choice. Since we are talking about sugar today, go ahead and read this label and see if you can identify any sugar in this product.
< Sugar always shows up here
< but the ingredient list is where the cold hard facts are. Read the entire thing top to bottom and see if you can find sugar.
Okay, what’s your verdict? Sugar-laden treat or seemingly healthy breakfast bar?
I counted sugar 9 TIMES on this ingredient label. (not to mention other chemical and artificial additives) 7 of the times that sugar was listed on this label, it was disguised under names unfamiliar to the average consumer. By the end of this post you will be able to identify sugar hidden in foods and my hope is that you will choose to avoid it!
If you didn’t already know, sugar consumption is a HUGE concern in the United States and according to research, here are 15 very good reasons why:
1. Sugar provides “empty calories” aka calories that are unaccompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients. This not only adds calories to your diet, but it leaves less room for healthier foods in your diet.
2. Sugar can suppress your immune system and decrease your ability to fight off infectious disease.
3. Sugar contributes to overweight and obesity.
4. Sugar can lead to an increase in bad cholesterol as well as a decrease in good cholesterol.
5. Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.
6. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
7. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of several cancers including lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, rectum, biliary tract, pancreatic, stomach and gallbladder.
8. Sugar can weaken eyesight and cause cataracts.
9. Sugar can cause premature aging.
10. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.
11. Sugar causes many problems with the GI tract including indigestion, decreased nutrient absorption, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
12. High sugar intake can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
13. Sugar increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, gallstones, polio, gout, depression, yeast infections, food allergies, headaches and migraines.
14. Sugar can cause cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.
15. Sugar is addictive.
So if sugar is in 80% of the foods we eat…
How on Earth Can We Avoid It?
1. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are by far the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet. One can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. This alone exceeds the daily recommendation for sugar intake. Do everything in your power to kick this habit! Drink water or unsweetened teas. La Croix or other flavored sparkling water is an excellent alternative to soda. You can also flavor water or sparkling water yourself with fruit or 100% fruit juice.
2. Sugar lurks in the obvious sweets such as donuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, pies, cobblers, ice cream and candy. Consume these products sparingly.
3. Sugars are added to foods during processing or preparation. These are the sugars I want to talk about today because they show up in foods that the average consumer would never guess contain sugar. Items like pasta sauces, salad dressings, dips, spreads, yogurt, cereals and granola bars are all common places to find added sugar. The only way to avoid these is to READ YOUR LABELS!! Check the ingredients for sugar.
Unfortunately, as you saw in the food label above, there are many disguises for sugar in our foods. There are well over 50 words for “sugar” on ingredient labels, but they all fall into a few categories which make them easier to locate. Take a look at How to Identify Sugar:
Words ending in -ose
- dextrose, Anhydrous dextrose, or crystal dextrose
- fructose, fructose sweetener, or liquid fructose
- Barley malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Rice syrup, ribose rice syrup, or rice syrup solids
- Sorghum or sorghum syrup
- Malt syrup
- Raisin syrup
- Beet Sugar
- Cane Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Coconut sugar, or coconut palm sugar
- Invert sugar
- Palm sugar
- Raw sugar
- Turbinado sugar
Words of or related to “cane”
- Cane Crystals, or cane juice crystals
- Evaporated cane juice
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
Words of or related to “malt”
- Rice malt
- malted barley
- malts, or malt syrup
Words ending in -ol
- glycerol (or glycerin)
- Corn sweetener
- Fruit juice concentrate, or concentrated fruit juice
- Nectars, agave nectar, peach nectar, or pear nectar
- diglycerides, disaccharides, or fructooligosaccharides
Crazy isn’t it? Don’t let this list discourage you. Revisit the ingredient label at the top of this post and see if the hidden sugar stands out to you now. The more you familiarize yourself with these names, the easier label reading will become. Still, the easiest way to avoid added sugar is to buy fresh, whole, natural foods that are minimally processed. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store and avoid the inner aisles. Anything that is packaged or preserved and shelf stable is likely to have added sugar in it. Anything labeled low-fat or fat-free usually contains added sugars as well. Opt for the full fat version in this case- rather than the low-fat one that is loaded with sugars.