Week o’ sugar–sneaky stuff

Image: rottencupcakes.com

This week I’ve been talking about sweet, sweet sugar. So far, I’ve come clean about my sugar obsession, started facing some sugar demons (day three and I’m rockin’ the house!), and talked a little about the effect of sugar on the body. Today, I’m going to help you spot that sneakster sugar in your favorite foods. It goes by many names, and shows up in unexpected places.

Quick, answer this without Googling:

Which of the following is an ingredient that adds calories and sweetness to yogurt?

  1. Lactose
  2. Aspartame
  3. Fruit juice concentrate
  4. All of the above

The correct answer is 3, fruit juice concentrate. I thought I was pretty label savvy, but I had no idea about that one.

That question is part of the quiz, Is it Sugar, or Something Else?, over at Spark People. Taking the quiz will not only test your sweetener knowledge, but also clue you in to some of the strange names sugar goes by. Here’s a partial list of sugar’s many aliases:

  • barley malt
  • cane juice/cane sugar
  • corn syrup (or high fructose corn syrup)
  • dextran
  • dextrose
  • maltodextrin
  • sorbitol

Those are just a few of many, many more. For a complete list, click here.

A quick check of your cupboards will likely turn up more undercover sugar than you ever imagined. All those “natural” granola bars, cereals, and crackers you buy thinking they’re healthy, likely have just as much sugar as a candy bar. And I hate tell you this, but your favorite peanut butter, salad dressing, yogurt, ketchup, iced tea, BBQ sauce and pasta sauce are likely loaded too. Oh yeah, a label that says “fat-free” is another clue to added sugar. Something has to make it taste good. Don’t let chemical, non-caloric sweeteners lull you into a false sense of security, either. Studies are starting to show that those aren’t any better than real sugar. Besides the obvious concerns about consuming artificial substances, researchers have found that a penchant for diet cola and the like, might simply reinforce your taste for sweets.

Obviously hidden sugar contributes to our too-high daily intake. But let’s be honest; even without hidden sugar, we’d still be too sweet for our own health. The CDC reports that half of Americans drink a soda or sugary beverage every day, and many people drink waaaayyy more than that (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you). We eat sugary breakfasts, snack on straight candy or other sweetened treats, and wrap up dinner with dessert. And that’s just an average day. Throw in Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and any other holiday you can think of, and we’ve got the majority of our religious and cultural celebrations serving as an excuse to binge on sweets for the weeks, no months, surrounding one special day.
Crap, when I think about it that way, there seems to be little hope of escape from a slow, sugary death. But I wouldn’t be dedicating a week to sugar if I really thought there was no way to redeem ourselves. And I wouldn’t bother to try to curb my own sugar love if I didn’t think I could make a difference. I’d just be sittin’ up in here, writing about healthy living while I munched on cupcake after cupcake. Actually, I’m munching on carrot sticks right now, so HA! Take that sugar!
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you what I think is the single easiest way to cut down on your sugar intake. Got any guesses?

3 thoughts on “Week o’ sugar–sneaky stuff

  1. terry says:

    A doctor on Rachael Ray’s program today reinforced what you are writing. He said that people look for FAT FREE foods and usually (as you stated) fat is replaced with sugar. One example he used was bread….whole wheat or whole grain breads.

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