Sugar. That tiny little word conjures up so many responses and as of late, it has become a controversial topic. Sugar is the most popular added food ingredient in the US and is added more often than not to health foods, supplements and even vitamins. It is widely known that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, and if that’s not enough to keep you away, read on. In recent years, a huge story broke out about how the billion-dollar sugar industry had been hiding more than four decades of research linking sweeteners to heart disease and bladder cancer. These findings were never released. Instead, they were swept under the huge industrial rug, buried, with all evidence destroyed.
This report was exciting news for Clean Foodies everywhere! Finally, the food manufacturers were going to have to radically change the way they process, package, and share their nutritional information… right?
Wrong! Although the story went viral and stirred the proverbial pot, it was not successful in changing the recommendations from many dietitians in clinical nutrition and wellness. This is predominantly due to the fact that the concept of living a ‘healthy’ lifestyle is to follow a balanced diet… meaning, not just focusing on sugars.
Once again, it was going to be the responsibility of the consumer to search out the truth; to decide which eating lifestyle is right for you, your body, and your overall health. For me, that choice was a simple one: Time to Cut Out the Sugar!
For those of us who desire to consume a diet without added sugar, the struggle is real! I’m sure you have realized that it is extremely difficult to do. My quest to discover a sugar-free lifestyle has led me to many a finding. By far, the #1 rule of thumb, that is a great starting point is: Avoid processed and packaged foods.
Did you know that food manufacturers are not required to list “added” sugars in grams on food labels? In addition, these sugars are often hidden and disguised by using other names. This is the main reason why it is next to impossible to know which types of sugar you are consuming when eating packaged foods; whether it is natural sugars, fruit sugars, milk sugars, or from added sugars. Additionally, they are not required to list how much of the sugar is naturally occurring or from added sugar. The only way to attempt to decipher the type of sugar is to look at the ingredients on the back label. Be wary of whatever is in fancy, bold, colorful writing on the front of the package! Most often times that is a marketing technique used to lull consumers into believing that it is a health(ier) option.
In my personal experience, it is safe to say that packaged foods have significantly higher added sugar content when the sugar sources are listed near the top of the ingredient list. Another blazing red flag is when there are several types of added sugars listed in the ingredients.
“Everybody’s got their poison, and mine is sugar.” ~ Derrick Rose
Health Food Stores and Sugar
It is a common mistake to think that everything at the ‘health food store’ is actually healthy for you. Just because something is labeled healthy, organic, or non-GMO, it does not mean it’s without sugar. Quite the contrary. Many of these foods are loaded with as much sugar, or more, as their mainstream counterparts. Always read the nutrition and ingredient contents on the labels.
Here are 10 of the most common “healthy” foods that actually have lots of sugar hiding in them:
- Cereals – including hot cereals like flavored oatmeal
- Packaged bread – including “whole grain” kinds
- Snack or granola bars
- “Lower calorie” drinks – including coffees, energy drinks, blended juices and teas
- Protein bars and meal replacements
- Sweetened yogurts and other dairy products (like flavored kefir, frozen yogurt, etc.)
- Frozen waffles or pancakes
- Bottled sauces, dressings, condiments and marinades
- Dried fruit and other fruit snacks
- Restaurant foods – where sugar is used in sauces, various desserts and dressings for extra flavor
What makes avoiding sugar so confusing for most people is this one simple fact: Not all sugar is inherently bad, and not all types of “sugar” are created equal.
For Your Information – The 3 Amigos of Sugar
The three buzzwords to look out for when searching for hidden sugars are: Fructose, Lactose, and Maltos.
- Fructose is sugar derived from fruits and veggies.
- Lactose is a sugar present in milk.
- Maltos is sugar derived from grain.
All 3 are created via some type of processing which is, plainly put, No Bueno! Another sinister list of names to keep a watchful eye for are syrup, cane, malt, or any words ending in ‘ose’. Essentially these are all sugar in clever disguise. And still…the list of names sugar hides under goes on and on.
Here is a partial list of ingredients that are basically sugar with a different name:
- Agave Nectar
- Agave Syrup
- Barbados Sugar
- Barley Malt
- Beet Sugar
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Brown Sugar
- Buttered Syrup
- Cane Juice
- Cane Juice Crystals
- Cane Sugar
- Carob Syrup
- Coconut Sugar
- Corn syrup
- Corn Sweetener
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Concentrated Fruit Juice
- Confectioner’s Sugar
- Carob Syrup
- Castor Sugar
- Crystalline Fructose
- Date Sugar
- Demerara Sugar
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Diastatic Malt
- Ethyl Maltol
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Free Flowing Brown Sugars
- Florida Crystals
- Fruit Juice Concentrate
- Glucose Solids
- Golden Sugar
- Golden Syrup
- Granulated Sugar
- Grape Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Icing Sugar
- Invert Sugar
- Liquid Fructose
- Malt Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Muscovado Syrup
- Oat Syrup
- Organic Raw Sugar
- Palm Sugar
- Pancake Syrup
- Powdered Sugar
- Raisin Syrup
- Raw Sugar
- Refiner’s Syrup
- Ribose Rice Syrup
- Rice Bran Syrup
- Rice Malt
- Rice Syrup
- Rice Syrup Solids
- Sorghum Syrup
- Table Sugar
- Tapioca Syrup
- Turbinado Sugar
- White Sugar
- Yellow Sugar
Good Sugars vs Bad Sugars – In a Nutshell
Good sugars can be thought of as naturally occurring, such as those found in fruit, pure honey, and unadulterated maple syrup.
Bad sugars are not added by Mother Nature and are refined or processed. Refining sugar removes all of the beneficial nutrients, plant compounds, and enzymes.
My Personal Sugar Journey
I once went five solid months without consuming a speck of added Sugar. This also included avoiding fruit and flour, dairy and gluten…since most of the former turns into sugar once consumed. I had a very distinctive visual that kept me on track: Bugs love sugar. They feast on it. My ingenious plan? Starve and irradiate the bugs! It might sound a bit drastic, but it was a healthy motivator for me. You will have to find a personal motivation that works for you, but feel free to use my buggy analogy.
My journey to live and consume as clean as possible continues. It is not always fun to be a food detective, deciphering what all of the jargon and mumbo-jumbo means. There are a lot of ins and outs allowed in the food industry, and unmasking potentially lethal contents continues to be a lesson in both patience and perseverance. We must continue to educate ourselves, as best as we can, to figure out what we are eating. The best way to sum up this whole topic point is: Care about what you swallow! It is the core of your basic, overall health.
CBS News – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sugar-health-risks-industry-hid-evidence-report/
Huffington Post – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/truth-about-sugar
Health Online – https://draxe.com/hidden-sugar-food