Most people who are trying to manage their diet and health might glance at the ingredients label on food products they have never tried before or if they are curious about a specific snack they eat daily. Understanding what you are reading on an ingredients label can become somewhat of a mystery when it comes to sugar.
Here is a quick breakdown of sugar in all of its confounding confusion (it will be quick and painless, I promise). Determining the amount of sugar a product contains can be complicated because there are sugar, sugars and added sugars.
- First, there is sugar or sucrose, a disaccharide made up of the two sugars, glucose and fructose.
- Second, there are sugars which is a broad term used for all monosaccharides and disaccharides including the one’s mentioned above plus lactose, maltose and trehalose.
- Finally, there are added sugars which include a wide assortment of sweeteners such as syrups, honey as well as sugar. On top of that little mind-bender added sugar can be referred to by a multitude of names including corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, molasses, malt sugar, honey, invert sugar, maple sugar, nectars, and on, and on…
Depending on your generation this is why you have to be Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Columbo, Monk, or Joan Watson to figure out how much sugar is in your Go-gurt!
Even if you are a yogi on mountain high, taken a vow of silence and living on raw kale and rice, there will come a time when a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (enter your favorite sweet here) will overcome your willpower and you will succumb to eating that delicious dessert in a dark closet at 3AM in guilty sweet secrecy.
Don’t get us wrong, we love sugar too! Sugar can be a great thing if ingested in moderate quantities and, most importantly, with the knowledge of exactly how much added sugar is in your diet. Each person’s relationship with sugar is different, as is the case with diabetics. Knowing what is good for your body and being aware of your limits may help to prevent future harmful health conditions.
A Healthier Alternative
Monk fruit, also known as “Buddha Fruit,” has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. In the United States it has become the relatively new sugar alternative because it wasn’t approved by the FDA until 2010. Monk fruit extract is 100-250 times sweeter than regular sugar. This is why manufacturers mix in other natural products to reduce the intensity of sweetness.
Although Monk fruit contains glucose and fructose similar to other sweet fruits, monk fruit’s extreme sweetness is derived from novel antioxidants called mogrosides. During the refining process, the mogrosides are separated from the fruit leaving the glucose and fructose behind. This is how monk fruit extract is made into a zero-calorie, natural sugar-alternative and a sweet addition to smoothies, coffee and other beverages and foods.
Hidden Added Sugar
Break out your binoculars to spot those devious added sugars that pop-up in unlikely places, especially in foods that are marketed to consumers as “natural” or “healthy.” It’s your body and it should be your business to know exactly what is going down that gullet of yours.
Some examples of foods that you should examine the label sporting your detective’s fedora hat and monocle (our detective wears a monocle, dress yours however you like) are:
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Protein Bars/Powders
- Green Icky-looking “healthy” superfood drinks (we are not going to name names, but Google “Odwalla,” oops…)
This list could be much longer but social media has ruined our attention span, we understand, but keep reading because here comes the juicy part.
Juices are notoriously marketed as a “healthy” alternative to sodas or other sugary beverages, but READ THE LABEL. Whether your prefer apple, orange or a posh blend of pineapple and hand-picked kiwi juice imported from the distant fields of New Zealand, they all contain a TON of sugar.
Unbelievably Sugary Facts
One eight-ounce glass of apple juice contains on average 30 grams of sugar. That is the equivalent of almost eight teaspoons! Imagine preparing your coffee in the morning and adding eight teaspoons of sugar and believing it was good for you.
Yogurts are another food that have jumped on the train to Candyland. Most people think of yogurt as a healthy snack, and it very well can be if you are choosing wisely at the grocery store. We now have limitless options of yogurt in every imaginable variety: on-the-go, fruit at the bottom, granola and chocolate espresso bits on top to mix in, and everything in between. This is where yogurt transforms from a healthy snack to a creamy dessert.
These foods don’t have to be completely off-limits in order to obtain a healthy balanced diet, but you should know when a mid-day “healthy snack” has the same amount of sugar as a bowl of ice cream.
Some major detective work is needed when it comes to smoothies and green blended veggie/fruit juices. These drinks are targeted for the health-conscious consumer. Although the 20 vegetables and fruits that are blended together are healthy ingredients when consumed alone, you should check the sugar content on the label. One popular green smoothie in a 15-ounce bottle claims “zero added sugar”, yet it contains 53 grams of sugar. This supposedly healthy smoothie has more sugar than 15-ounces of soda.
Added Sugar Equals Added Health Problems
If you don’t start to limit the amount of sugar you are consuming it can lead to serious health issues. A high intake of added sugar can be a serious even fatal choice which could lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or fatty-liver disease to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack1.
More studies are coming out every year about the link between added sugar and Cardio Vascular Disease.2 Your risk for Cardio Vascular Disease increases as the percentage of your daily caloric intake stems from added sugars.
Like most things in life, finding a healthy balance that works for your unique body is a process and these are changes that will not occur overnight. Becoming aware of the added sugar in the foods you regularly eat is an important first step to eventually curbing the amount of added sugar you consume daily.
- The sweet danger of sugar, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar#:~:text=%22The%20effects%20of%20added%20sugar,Hu.
- 2.What is the impact of eating too much sugar?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/eating-too-much-sugar