Most people know that sugar is something we should stay away from when trying to eat healthy. It’s also probably the hardest thing to stay away from! Sugar is all around us, marketed to our children, and hidden in many processed foods. Natural sugars are fine for us in moderation. The problem is that on average, Americans consume up to 26 teaspoons of added sugar daily. That’s about 17 teaspoons MORE than the AHA recommended value of daily added sugar (6-9 teaspoons). Although the FDA requires companies to list all ingredients in their products, there are over 61 names for sugar! There is no information telling us what portion of the sugar comes naturally from the ingredients and what portion are additives.
After doing some research and finding out what these processed sugars really are, I was shocked! There are added sugars in foods that aren’t even sweet tasting. Things that sound “healthy” or labeled as organic do not have the perceived nutritional content.
So what is sugar? It is a type of carbohydrate that provides us energy. There are single unit sugars, like glucose, fructose and galactose. There are two unit sugars like sucrose, lactose, and maltose. All of these are found naturally in foods, like fructose in fruit. Everyone loves the sweet taste of strawberries right?! When we eat a strawberry or apple, the fiber in the fruit slows down digestion and does not cause a huge spike in blood sugar. The problem with added fructose is that it is made into a concentrate, which sucks out all the fiber, water, and nutritional components. This causes a sugar rush and crash. A long term lifestyle of all this added sugar is found to cause type two diabetes, heart disease, obesity and a myriad of health problems. Studies have found that high doses of fructose (which is digested in the liver) can have the same effect as alcohol on the body! Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has been found in not only adults, but in children!
One way to avoid these harmful added sugars is to READ INGREDIENT LABELS!!!! Here is a list of common names for added sugars, and what they really are.
- Fructose: This is made into a concentrate which removes any fiber or water that natural fructose-containing foods have.
- Sucrose: Pure sugar without preservatives or additives
- Dextrose: Made from corn starch through hydrolysis. Dextrose is commonly found as a component in HFCS. This hydrolysis process does occur naturally in our bodies! Enzymes in our saliva begin to break down starches upon chewing into simpler sugars. Therefore, the longer we chew, the sweeter the food tastes!
- Maltodextrin: This is made from either wheat, corn, potato or rice. The sugar is processed by cooking the starch and breaking it down with enzymes and acids.
- HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup): Made from corn, which then converts a percentage of the glucose into fructose, to where the syrup is most commonly 55% fructose.
- Juice concentrate: Syrup composed of fructose made from fruit.
- Brown rice syrup: This is the starch from brown rice that is broken down into simple sugars. This syrup is very high on the Glycemic Index scale, scoring a 98!
- Organic cane syrup: This has the same components of sugar. It means that the sugar cane was not modified or treated with harmful pesticides. Although organic is a good thing, unfortunately, the body can’t tell the difference between each type of sugar and results with a high blood sugar rush.
- Invert sugar syrup: A mix of glucose and fructose made by splitting saccharose (found in honey) with enzyme invertase.
- Organic glucose syrup: This is the same thing as corn syrup, but organic.
- Other names to look out for: Maltose, Rice syrup, Crystalline fructose, Barley malt
Here are some examples of everyday products that the average person eats. Look at all this sugar!
- Cliff Bar: Organic brown rice syrup, organic cane syrup, organic invert sugar syrup, organic glucose syrup, fruit concentrates
- Nutrigrain Bars: sugar, dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, corn syrup
- Panera Asian Sesame Salad Dressing: HFCS, maltodextrin, sucralose
- Bread: HFCS, honey, molasses, raisin juice concentrate
This is why it’s important to understand what you are putting into your body. By reading what is in the products we buy, we become smarter merchants. Smarter merchants vote with their dollars. The less processed sugar foods we buy, the less the supermarkets restock the shelves. Wondering what some healthy sugar are alternatives are? Swing by next week to check out my blog “Sweeter Sweeteners”! Cheers!