Most of us know that in order to maintain a healthy diet we need to limit sugar. However, it is important to differentiate between natural and added sugar. Sugar that occurs naturally in a whole food such as fruit has fiber attached to it. As a result, the absorption of this sugar is much slower which gives the body a chance to us it as an energy source. In contrast, added sugar in food tends to cause spikes in blood sugar and consequently spikes in insulin levels that result in the sugar being stored as fat. At the present time, food manufacturers are not required to differentiate between natural and added sugars which makes it difficult to determine if a particular food is healthy. The best rule of thumb is to avoid all processed foods and only eat whole foods. In that way you can avoid all added sugar. However, we all lead busy lives and processed food are a part of life. The key is to limit processed foods and subsequently added sugars and when it is necessary to buy processed foods, we choose ones that are minimally processed and contain little to no added sugar.
How do we accomplish this? Here are three tips to avoid added sugar in your food.
1) Simply knowing where most of our added sugar comes from is important. According to the USDA, most of the sugar in the American diet comes from regular soft drinks (33%) followed by sweetened fruit drinks, cake, candy and cereal (24%) and condiments like ketchup, BBQ sauce and peanut butter (25%). It is important to read labels when purchasing these foods or avoid them all together.
2) Read labels carefully. When reading a label, sugar or a form of sugar should not be in the first 5 ingredients. Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn't work because food manufacturers employ a technique meant to trick the consumer. They use several different types of sugar in an effort to decrease the amount of each one. In this way they can list several different forms of sugar as ingredients 6 and 7 for example and make the food appear to contain less sugar because "sugar is not in the first 5 ingredients.
3) Know what different forms sugar takes. Sugar isn't always listed plainly so pay close attention to the following list. As a general rule anything that ends in an "ose" is a form of sugar but sugar takes many other forms as well!
- Corn sweetener/corn syrup/high fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Malt syrup
- Cane juice/cane syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Brown Sugar
- Cane Crystals
- Crystalline fructose
- Invert sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Brown rice syrup
Buyer beware, sugar is everywhere!