Can You Find the Hidden Sugar?

Sugar, sugar everywhere, and there seems to be enough to share. But how many people actually understand sugar, and how many people know how much sugar they are really receiving in a day?

Last night I made homemade chili for my family (they seem to always request that every week) and my father and my sister ran out of sour cream. Now I usually use whole milk organic plain yogurt in place of sour cream, and this seemed to appeal to them when it never did before. Should they try it? My father looked at the nutrition information (which was a surprise) and exlaimed, “Wow, that sure has a lot of sugar in it.” He then proceeded to smell it to make sure it wasn’t a sweet tasting yogurt that would ruin his savory dish.
Now, this kind of upset me, because my family knows that I would NEVER buy something with added sugar in it, especially if it is organic, so I defended my yogurt with fervor. Yes, it does have 12 grams of sugar per cup, but this is naturally occurring in dairy products as the disaccharide lactose that is found in every dairy product.
I then told them that their sour cream had more sugar than my plain yogurt, and them, being not as adept to reading nutritional labels, told me it only had 2 grams. That’s true; however, it was 2 grams per 2 tablespoons. That would make it have 4 grams more sugar than yogurt!
Now this story (real event) was told to demonstrate the delusion and confusion when it comes to nutritional labels–but mainly when it comes to sugar content. What should you be looking for when it comes to how much sugar you are ingesting in your favorite food?
I am mainly talking about processed food in this post, whether or not it is organic. Whole foods contain very little naturally occurring sugar, unless it is dairy or fruit. Even then, these sugars are metabolized in the body very differently from the foods you will find in the middle of your supermarket, laden with added sugars.
I will not go through the molecular structure of sugar in this post, as that deserves a whole other post on its own. However, I will let you know, before we delve deeper, that regular sugar is made up of two monosaccharides fructose and glucose, in equal amounts. This forms, like I just said, regular sugar, or sucrose.
If you are looking at the back of a nutrition label, and you see a word that ends with the suffix
-ose, you are guaranteed that you are consuming a product with added sugar. The main sugar that the food industry uses now days (if it isn’t organic) is high fructose corn syrup. This damaging form of “sugar” is hard to consume in moderation if one is constantly consuming processed food.
Later on, I will post about the damaging effect of free fructose, as of that found in high fructose corn syrup, but for now we need to concern ourselves with identifying added sugars in our foods. Most foods that we consume on a day to day basis seem as though they wouldn’t need sugar, but the industry places it in there anyway. Everything from breads (even whole wheat and grain), packaged pasta meals, frozen dinners, sausages and meats–these have all been found to have added sugar.
Walking through the grocery store is a bit fun for me, because I am an avid fan of reading nutrition labels. You wouldn’t believe (or if you are reading this blog, you actually may believe) the products that contain added sugar. Every product that I mentioned in the above paragraph contained either corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup–products that naturally would have no sugar in them at all!
When buying processed food, even if it is organic, it is very valuable to your health, and to those you love, to read nutrition labels. You absolutely don’t have to be insane about it, or to work yourself into a rut, just try and look for better options. Different brands of the same foods may have different sugar content, and may contain different forms of sugar. If you are going to buy something that does contain added sugar, it is best to find a brand that uses pure sugar, and not corn syrup, fructose or high fructose corn syrup.
Sometimes we need to buy these foods–for convenience, for taste or pleasure, whatever. Just always keep in mind that there are better options for the same food, and to also notice where the sugar content that is in the nutrition label is coming from. Is it coming from naturally occurring sources like those found in the whole fruit, vegetable or dairy? Or is it coming from the addition of sugar by the manufacturer?
Hopefully this post has given you some insight, advice and guidance on the sugar issue in your food. You can be sure that this won’t be the last, as I have many more posts coming in the future, especially the growing concern over fructose.
Until then, this has been The Healthy Advocate.
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3 Responses to “Can You Find the Hidden Sugar?”
  1. Lillea Woodlyns 27 April 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I know what you mean! It’s amazing how many foods have added sugar now. Recently I looked at every jar and can of tomato sauce at my local supermarket and almost all of them had corn syrup in them, including brands that didn’t used to. All the more reason to check labels – your favorite foods may have changed. I try to stick to whole foods as much as possible, but I agree that sometimes having a more processed food isn’t a terrible thing, it just depends on the ingredients and amount of processing overall.

    • Brandon May 28 April 2010 at 1:36 am #

      I know, it is quite ridiculous. HFCS is cheaper than real sugar, although I don’t necessarily prefer sugar at all in my tomato sauces and other condiments that you wouldn’t think would have added sugar in it. I know it gives it a bit of a complexity in the taste, but I don’t like it. Just like you said, it is best to stick to a mostly whole food diet, using processed foods when you’re in a pinch–even then it is best to keep an eye on what you buy.

  2. Lillea Woodlyns 28 April 2010 at 2:42 am #

    Definitely! HFCS is the yuckiest creation. I’ll always remember how my father, who has sensitive taste buds, was disgusted when they started to replace sugar with HFCS in jam. He noticed it right away. It gives jam an almost greasy mouth feel. So he did his best to buy jam that used white sugar, which increasingly meant that he had to buy jam imported from Europe. I can taste the difference too. I rarely have jam, but if I’m going to have it, I’ll choose the more expensive white sugar types. How bizarre it all is. :) lol

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