If you are on a path to better health by trying to lose weight, battle disease or accomplish pretty much any other health goal, then you should know where sugar is hiding in your diet. You may think that you have cut out sugar, cut down on your sugar intake or taken steps to avoid it, but sugar is hiding in your food, lurking in sneaky places on labels and even masquerading as nutrition. When you start to look for it, it is shocking to discover how much sugar is hiding in unsuspected spots, just waiting to ruin your health goals. However, knowing that sugar is hiding is half the battle because now you know to look for it in order to avoid it.
The Problem With Sugar
As a kid, you were probably told that sugar rots your teeth and causes cavities. Sugar does do that, but it does a lot more damage to the rest of your body as well. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar has been tied to the obesity epidemic in kids, causing weight gain in adults and leading to high blood pressure and high levels of “bad” cholesterol. More recently, sugar consumption has been linked to certain types of cancer.
Shockingly, despite all the bad news about sugar, the National Cancer Institute reports that most men and women consume up to 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, despite recommendations by the American Heart Association that advise only six teaspoons for women and nine for men.
Where It Is Hiding
Added sugar hides in premade, manufactured foods. You probably know that they exist in things like desserts, baked goods and cereals. What you may not know is that sugar is often hidden in products that are not necessarily known for being sweet.
Many of the worst hidden sugar offenders are bottled dressings, marinades, sauces and condiments (especially ketchup and barbecue sauce). These products are not known for being sweet, but manufacturers have managed to make them palatable with added sugars.
Yogurt naturally contains some sugar because it is a dairy product, but the fruit flavors have added sugar that takes away from its nutritional value. Buy plain yogurt and then top it with fresh or frozen fruit to get your sweet fix while staying closer to reasonable levels of sugar consumption. Fruit juices also have a lot of sugar thanks to fruit being naturally sweet. However, some brands add sugar to make them even sweeter.
Other Spots to Check Out
Sugar by any other name is still sugar. When reading labels, many manufacturers prefer to use a complicated, scientific name so that they are following labeling requirements, but consumers still buy their product because they do not see sugar on the label. For example, because corn syrup is getting a lot of heat for being unhealthy, the industry is lobbying to change the term to “corn sugar.” Here are some other sugars to be aware of:
- fruit-juice concentrate
- malt syrup
- beet sugar
- high-fructose corn syrup
- evaporated cane juice
Knowing what to look for can help you eliminate many added sugars from your diet.