Hidden sugar: You are probably eating sugar frequently without realizing it.
The average North American eats 150 pounds of sugar each year even though sugar has been linked to a ton of health problems. Much of that is hidden sugar. Two hundred years ago, people only ate two pounds per year. No wonder sugar-related problems are on the rise! These include heart disease, diabetes, and cancer just to name a few.
What is sugar and where is it?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that is naturally found in many foods, including lactose (in milk) and fructose (in fruit). These aren’t necessarily the big problem for your health; it’s the processed and added sugars that pose the biggest dangers and it’s not as easy as you may think to avoid these hidden sugars.
Sugar is in so many foods — more than you might realize. Pop and other soft drinks are the obvious culprits, (just one can of pop has as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar!) but that’s not all you need to watch out for.
Low fat “diet” meals often contain plenty of sugar to make up for the lower fat content and to stop it tasting bland. Processed foods, in general, have hidden sugar, including canned soups and ready-made sauces. You may not realize it, but even bread can be hiding sugar! This is why checking your food labels is key to ensure your diet isn’t falling victim to sugar.
What Does Sugar Do to Your Health?
Too much sugar essentially spikes your blood sugar levels and then leads to a big dip. You might get a sugar high in the short term but it’ll be followed by a crash that affects your mood and makes you crave more sugar. This vicious cycle is one of the main reasons why sugar is so heavily linked to obesity as it encourages you to keep eating more sugar.
The health problems associated with sugar can go far beyond this though. One of the main concerns is high fructose corn syrup. Fructose in fruits isn’t all that bad and this can fool you into thinking that high fructose corn syrup can’t be that dangerous either. In reality, it’s one of the worst types of sugar you can consume. It’s a major ingredient in a lot of foods because it is cheap to produce, so it’s definitely one to watch out and stay away from as much as you can.
Your liver can metabolize fructose to a large extent. This is good because whole fruit contains fructose and we need fruit in our daily diet. Why is fructose a problem? Because when fructose is concentrated or too much of it hits the liver, your liver starts turning it into fat instead and this is where the health problems begin.
In the modern world, a lot of us eat (or drink) more fructose than the body can handle.
Eating too much fructose can make your liver inflamed and start building up fat. It also encourages uric acid to be produced, which raises your blood pressure and can even lead to gout.
More worryingly, too much sugar in your diet affects blood lipids and cholesterol levels, which can lead to cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. If you are worried about your cholesterol it’s sugar, not fat, that you need to stay away from.
Even fruit juice can contribute to this because it is high in fructose. According to studies, its fructose content can encourage the body to store abdominal fat, especially the type that surrounds organs. (And we serve juice at every single event for kids … WHY?)
Is there Good Sugar?
You’re better off choosing whole fruits (rather than fruit juices) or juice your own fruits as the fructose in these is naturally occurring and in no way a danger to your health. You’ll also get more fiber from whole fruits and you’d have to eat an unrealistic amount for their fructose content to become a cause for concern. (Still concerned about fruit? Read my post “Should I stop eating fruit?”)
TIP: Mix natural sugars with protein to balance your blood sugar levels and to stop the sugar being absorbed into your bloodstream as quickly. For example, pair a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or some yogurt. This can also help to curb cravings too.
How to Identify Hidden Sugar
Sugar often won’t be included on the ingredients as sugar. Food manufacturing companies are getting crafty when it comes to labeling their products. Sugar can be labeled as a long list of other names and it can be hard to really understand what you’re eating. Anything ending in “ose” is an obvious giveaway, including glucose, sucrose (better known as table sugar), fructose and maltose.
Another way to identify that something contains sugar are syrups such as rice syrup and corn syrup. And then there’s the big one: high fructose corn syrup.
“Sugar-free” foods generally contain artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame. Studies have suggested that these don’t do a lot to satisfy sugar cravings and may actually make you overeat. There are also concerns that they may pave the way for health problems.
Sidenote: Aspartame accounts for over 75% of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA including migraines, rashes, insomnia, slurred speech, joint pain, memory loss, vertigo, and heart palpitations. Chronic illnesses such as brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia, Epilepsy and Parkinson’s can be triggered or made worse by ingesting aspartame.
Your Next Step:
So take a look at your food labels. If there is no food label, you’re good. (For example, an apple doesn’t have a label. It’s an apple!) If you identify any hidden sugar ingredients high up on the ingredient list (meaning they are in the first few ingredients listed) then you know that there probably too much sugar hiding in the food!
Today, go through your pantry and check your labels. What has hidden sugar in it?
Click here to schedule a free call with me if you need help figuring out the next step on your own health journey. It might be cutting down on sugar, but it might be something totally different. We can figure it out together and break it down into manageable steps.
References: The Lancet, Mercola, Dr. Tick, All photos from Unsplash