Sugar is so sneaky . . . it even has undercover names that allow it to sneak into your diet where you least expect it! Unfortunately, we kinda have a “thing” for it! But since 1970, the amount of sugar in processed foods has nearly doubled, largely because sugar is cheap and readily available. During the fat-free craze of the early ‘80s and ‘90s, manufacturers removed fat from packaged foods and replaced it with sugar to make up for the lack of taste. Since then, fat has come back, but the sugar has remained. But finding the sugar isn’t always easy. As a result, the average American consumes 43,800 more calories from added sugar per year than we did in 1977! Unfortunately, our body isn’t equipped to handle this much. For example, if a woman’s intake of sugar increases by more than 20 percent, her body-mass index rises 2 to 3 points, which is enough to shift from the normal weight to the overweight category, or from overweight to obese. (Based on a 27 year study from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.) And as we know, increased sugar consumption is also linked to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Unfortunately, nutrition labels list only total grams of sugar, lumping together those that were added with those that occur naturally in the ingredients. To discover what’s really in there, look for the word sugar, but also look for its aliases. Most common are high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, juice (evaporated cane juice) and words ending in –ose (dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose.)
Surprising to many, the number one source of added sugar in our diet is beverages. And even when we think we’re having a healthy choice, like smoothies, they are often loaded with sugar. Jamba Juice’s 24-ounce classic smoothie, for instance, has 70 grams or more of total sugar, most of which is added sugar from juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt. Consider asking at the counter for whole fruit, little or no juice, or plain yogurt and ice.
Another sneaky sugar fiend is yogurt. Many brands have more than 25 grams of sugar per 6 ounce serving. About 12 of those grams is from lactose, and anything above that amount is added for flavor. The addition is typically from preserves, which is basically fruit marinated in sugar, or straight table sugar. Consider buying plain lowfat yogurt and stirring in chopped fruit or fresh berries. (Remember to limit your overall intake of yogurt, however, to avoid the effect of casein. More on the dangers of casein in a later article!)
Another surprising source of sugar is pasta sauce. Commercial varieties may contain 8 grams or more of sugar per half cup! Be sure to check the ingredients lists and skip varieties that include extra sugar. (One tomato has 3.2 grams sugar, so most sauces will naturally contain some. Two no-sugar added options: Classico Tomato & Basil and Lucini Italia Tuscan Marinara Sauce with Roasted Garlic.)
Also, be on the look-out for the surprisingly heavy sugar content in baked beans, baked potato chips, barbecue sauce, canned soup, cereal, cornbread, croutons, frozen meals, pretzels, and snack bars!