The FDA is making some positive strides towards making it easier to choose healthier foods. After banning trans fats earlier in 2015, they are now proposing that added sugars should be including in the nutritional info on a product’s label. When it comes to processed food, sugar is confusing because it goes under many names. Here’s how to be sugar savvy in food buying and consumption.
1. Sugar = Sugar = Sugar
How many types of sugar do you know? Sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose – these are recognizable names. Have you heard of lactose and maltose? Anything with ‘ose’ on the end probably sounds like sugar but when it comes to food processing there’s evaporated cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, molasses, high fructose corn syrup. Whatever it is called – it is all sugar!
2. Always Check for Added Sugar
We know sugar is bad for us but not all sugars are equal. The natural sugar in fruit for example, aka fructose, comes in a package full of nutrients and fiber and antioxidants that counter affect the sugar and will not upset a balanced, healthy diet. On the other hand, added sugar in heavily-processed foods is nutrient-deficient.
3. “Healthy Foods” Contain Sugar
The food industry is very clever in its marketing. Many manufacturers know we are becoming more savvy about food ingredients. “Sugar-free” foods are a popular choice for people who want to be healthier. However, you should know that many processed foods require a sweetener to make it palatable so instead of sugar, you’ll find ingredients like honey and agave syrup. They try to tell us there are healthy sweeteners but look at a pot of flavored yogurt. You might find it contains a calorie count equivalent to a candy bar.
4. Let’s Talk about Artificial Sweeteners
They sound like a good deal don’t they? There are certainly plenty of them on the grocery store shelves to choose from. And they also feature in processed foods. It is only in recent years that studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are not a good sugar substitute. Aspartame for example has been shown to cause glucose intolerance which leads to Type II diabetes. Sweeteners have also been shown to cause gut-flora imbalances. How to deal? Steer clear. Natural sugars are better than artificial.
5. What about Natural Alternatives to Sugar?
There are some excellent sweeteners provided by Mother Nature – for example, stevia and erythritol. But you still have to check what you’re buying. Take care not to purchase cheap brands that have been loaded up with natural flavors and bulking agents and other added ingredients. Only buy products you can trust as 100% natural. Read that label ladies.
6. Check Your Juices and Smoothies
These are one of the main foods that we tend to automatically see as being healthy. You simply must read the label before you buy. A retail juice that contains more fruit than vegetables can contain a huge amount of sugar. If the label doesn’t make it clear how much sugar is contained, check the proportion of fruit to veg. Better yet, make your own juices and err on the side of more veg than fruit.
7. The Frustration with Fructose
I’ve saved this until last because it’s hugely personal to me. I love fruit and used to eat it by the bucket load but since I had my daughter, I’ve had to be more circumspect. My darling little Gracie is FPIES and she is hugely intolerant to so many foods – especially fruit – specifically, the sugar in fruit – fructose. Your body can utilize most forms of sugar, except fructose which goes straight to the liver where the excess is converted into liver fat. Excess liver fat can lead to heart disease and Type II diabetes. So be careful about the amount of fruit you eat. The more fruit you eat, the less room for other sugars in your diet.
You can cut down on sugar by being cleaver about your choices and knowing what you’re eating. Do you think you eat too much sugar?