- Aliza Beer
The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Added Sugars
Whether you are trying to shed weight or are just trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle, you probably are doing your best to steer clear of too much sugar. This is definitely a wise decision because excess sugar in our diets has been linked to obesity, dental cavities, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases. However, we must ask ourselves if we actually know how much sugar we consume on a daily basis.
Most of us are probably consuming more sugar than we think and added sugars are to blame. Added sugars are the syrups and sugars that are added to many foods or beverages during production. These added sugars contain no nutritional value and simply add calories. Unfortunately, sugar is added to many different food and drink products and not just the “obvious ones.” So while you may not be eating cookies or gulping down bottles of soda, you are likely consuming sugar from other hidden sources that you would never have guessed contain added sugar.
Yogurts, breads, condiments, sauces, energy bars, cereals, granola, and salad dressings, are just some of the common foods that have sugars added to them. Leading brands of tomato sauce, such as Francesco Rinaldi, have 11 grams of sugar in ½ a cup. Due to tomato sauce generally being added to foods such as pasta or bread (which are loaded carb sources), one could leave that meal with their blood sugar seriously spiked. Even these loaded carb sources, such as bread and wraps often contain added sugar and not just the white flour options. Many whole grain wraps, English muffins, and breads contain added sugars (up to 18 grams in some!) to enhance flavor. Low fat foods are another major source of added sugars to boost the flavor of the food.
Another item that sneaks in the added sugars are “natural” muffins and cookies. Sometimes a bakery will boast of its “naturally sweetened” muffin, which is sweetened with honey. But this is just another way of saying sugar since honey is broken down in the body the same exact way as sugar. Also, more often than not these muffins are sold in jumbo size, so besides for the high calorie count an entire “healthy” muffin can have up to 30 grams of added sugar! One also may find the latest “gluten free, whole grain, natural” cookies, which are also loaded with added sugars. Some leading brands of yogurt can have up to 22 grams of sugar in it while a serving a fat-free granola can have 19 grams of added sugar! In fact, Stonyfield’s organic, fat free vanilla yogurt has 25 grams of sugar. This amount of sugar is actually comparable to that of a candy bar! A Reese’s peanut butter cup bar contains 21 grams of sugar, which is less than many of these listed “healthy” foods. No matter where the sugar is coming from your blood sugar and insulin levels spikes. Shockingly, close to ¾ of the packaged foods in supermarkets contain added sugars. So how are we consumers overlooking this?
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require food manufacturers to list all of the ingredients that are put in their products. The problem is that there are close to 60 different names for sugar. Most of us are unfamiliar with some of sugar’s aliases making it difficult to recognize how much sugar is actually in the food. Many people see a whole list of ingredients and assume that “sugar” is just one component making up an entire product of food. Manufacturers, however, will use all the different types of added sugars in the food and list them under their different names so we do not realize just how many of those ingredients are actually just sugar. Some of these include: agave, barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, dextrin, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and molasses. In addition, anything listed in the nutrition fact label that ends in ‘ose’ is a sugar. Think fructose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, and dextrose. By breaking up the amount of sugar from “20 grams of sugar” into “5 grams of fructose,” “10 grams of malt syrup,” and “5 grams of sucrose,” companies are able to place these added sugars, which add up to a lot, lower on the ingredients list because ingredients are listed in decreasing weight order.
Thus, it does not take pouring the 10 packs of sugar into your morning coffee to consume a substantial amount of added sugar. But if added sugars are in so many foods, how can one avoid it? Knowing how to spot these added sugars allows you to make healthier dietary choices. Try to buy pure whole grain bread, like Ezekiel bread or whole wheat or spelt matzah, to avoid consuming the added sugar. Additionally, by sticking to whole, natural foods that are not filled with added sugar, such as fruits (which contain only a small amount of natural sugar), vegetables, and fresh produce, you will be significantly lowering your intake of unnecessary sugars. By recognizing and limiting these added sugars, we can cut down on calories and improve our health in the long run.