Sugar is considered public enemy number one in the obesity epidemic plaguing our country and for good reason. The largest source of calories for Americans comes from added sugars. Americans are consuming on an average 3lbs of sugar every week! This is alarming since science has repeatedly shown that excess sugar in our diet takes a devastating toll on our health. But you may be surprised to find all the places this sweet old friend lurks in.
You don’t need a degree in nutrition to know that sweetened beverages, candy, cakes, cookies, and pies are packed with sugar. What you might not realize is that processed sugar hides in everything from tomato sauce and salad dressing to crackers and bread.
With sugar hiding in all kinds of unexpected places, it can be hard to avoid. As a registered dietitian, I encourage limiting added sugars in the diet to help remove nutritionally empty calories. It is an easy way to improve your health and better control your weight.
Not all sugar is created equal. Glucose is the sugar found in our blood, and a certain amount is vital for survival. Dextrose is the name given to sugar produced from corn. Sucrose is simple table sugar. Lactose is the natural sugar in wholesome milk. Fructose is the natural sugar in fruit. When fruit is consumed fresh, frozen, or canned in 100% juice, there is less alarm because it is complemented by other nutrients and fiber. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made from corn starch and deemed the villain of all sugars.
On food nutrition panels the line for “sugars” includes both added and natural sugars. To detect added sugars get familiar with reading the ingredient list found on all processed food’s labels. If the product is 100% fruit or a plain dairy product like plain yogurt or white milk, the total sugar listed refers to naturally occurring sugars.
• Brown sugar
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Fruit juice concentrates
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Invert sugar
• Malt sugar
• Raw sugar
• Look for “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Alternates To Sugar
If you are looking for a sweet solution for your sweet tooth try stevia, a sugar alternative made from the stevia plant, an herb that has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in blood sugar. Limit any sugar alternative to 1-2 packets or teaspoons, daily. Artificial sweeteners used in a responsible manner also offer those with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes the chance to enjoy life’s sweetest treats without putting their delicate blood sugar in the danger zone.
Let me be clear, artificial sweeteners of any kind are not the answer to American’s sugar addiction. If you find yourself needing more than a few packets a day then you have a bigger issue with needing that “sweet taste.” Take time to address the need for a sweet taste before searching out a healthier artificial sweetener.
But before you become a sugar tyrant, take a deep breath keep the big picture in mind. Sugar is a part of the sweetest celebrations; birthdays, weddings, holidays, and Grandma’s baked treats made with love and sugar. Let’s start by removing the unnecessary added sugar from our everyday life so we can feel less guilty about savoring the sweet stuff during life’s sweetest moments.