Posted on Nov 19, 2020, 2 p.m.
Some foods have more sugar than you would think, and that added sugar(s) can be hiding in some surprising choices that you may have thought were fairly safe for added sugar content.
A quick search will bring up article after article warning that too much sugar is not a good idea as it will not be doing you or your health any good. But when it comes to excessive sugar intake it typically isn’t natural sugar that is the culprit rather it’s all those added sugar(s) that are the real issue.
Naturally occurring sugar like those found in whole and unprocessed foods supply the body with needed energy in appropriate amounts, and as a plus, they usually accompany important nutrients including vitamins, fiber and protein. The real issue comes with all those added sugar(s) that are rapidly digested and cause a spike in blood sugar that creates a cascade of metabolically damaging reactions. High intake of added sugar(s) has been shown to lead to fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and systemic inflammation which are often linked to being overweight and obese.
Current federal dietary guidelines recommend that added sugar contribute to no more than 10% of daily calories, however, research shows that 3 out of 4 people are consuming a great deal more than that.
To be honest, it is hard to avoid added sugar(s), even if you don’t add any sugar to your food although you may think you are fine, several foods that are not in the dessert/candy category can be hiding a surprisingly high amount of added sugar(s). Many processed food choices that are not even sweet can account for 90% of all the added sugar(s) that the average person consumes according to a study published in the BMJ Journal.
You would think that yogurt would be safe, but that is not necessarily true, it depends on what kind you buy. Flavored yogurt may surprise you with sugar(s) content such as the fruit on the bottom variety which most often contains more added sugar(s) than fruit. It is important to actually read the ingredient labels when looking at a yogurt to check if any sugar is listed in the top 3 ingredients, put it back down and look at another if there is. Sugar can go by more than 60 different names including cane juice and corn syrup be sure to look up any name you are uncertain of to help control that unwanted added sugar(s) content to your diet. To really be safe you could opt for plain yogurt and add in your own flavor mixes like cinnamon, fresh fruit or roasted and unsalted seeds/nuts to provide flavor without added sugar(s).
Canned soup is another surprise added sugar contributor. You may be aware that it is high in sodium, but you may not be aware that it is full of sugar with the highest levels being found in tomato-based soups as sugar reduces the acidity of tomatoes to help balance the taste. This is another item that is important to read the ingredient labels for added sugar(s), especially when it comes to tomato-based varieties.
Salad dressings are how seemingly healthy salad goes wrong from being a seemingly healthy choice, but it is not just due to the fat content dressing contains, salad dressings can contain 6 grams of added sugar per serving. Fat-free and light versions of salad dressing tend to be the highest in added sugar(s) as when manufacturers remove the fat they often add more sugar to boost the flavor. To avoid this you could try using hummus, tzatziki, citrus juice, vinegar or pureed berries to dress your salads.
Store-bought tomato sauces hide a lot of added sugar(s) to reduce the acidic taste of the tomatoes and to help keep the jarred sauces fresh for longer. It’s not the naturally occurring sugars that are the issue here, it’s the added ones like corn syrup that cause the problem. Some brands come with an added 4 grams per half a cup. Read the ingredient labels for these products, and if you are having trouble finding those that are low/free of added sugar content try a jar of plain diced tomatoes instead. With plain diced tomatoes all you need to do is drain the juices, add spices and puree to make your own quick sauce without the added sugar content that with a little experimentation may end up being better than any store-bought kind.
Not all fruit juices are created equally, for example, some orange juice contains nothing but pure juice from oranges while others may be labelled as such but they are actually loaded with added sugar(s) and other ingredients. Packaging can be tricky and misleading. Read the product ingredient label for those that list just juice from the fruit on the listing or those that note 100% juice or no sugar(s) added. You could even opt for the entire whole fruit instead which is an even better option as whole fruits such as grapes and apples over juice choices have been shown to help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Granola and snack bars can be glorified candy for breakfast if you are not careful. These products most often sound better than they actually are because some brands can contain 11 grams of added sugar(s) per bar. Read the ingredient label and avoid those with sugar(s) listing in the top 3 ingredients. While there are a few brands that are incredibly low to free of added sugar(s) you could also opt for snacking on a handful of whole nuts and whole or unsweetened dried fruit instead. Whole and fresh is almost always best.
While we’re talking about dried fruits, this is another product that most often sounds healthier than it is. For example, a handful of dried cranberries can contain 27 grams of added sugar(s) to go along with the naturally occurring sugars that are added to offset the fruit’s tartness. Dried tart fruits typically have the highest sugar levels, look for options that list only fruit on the ingredient labels and no added sugar(s).
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement