Eating Healthy 101: How To Spot Hidden Sugars

by Debbie Wolfe
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in a most delightful way," sang Mary Poppins.

Well, of course it does! What better way to mask the bitter taste of medicine with a bit of sweetness?
However, the problem is the average person in the US consumes way more that the 50g of sugar per day recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A 2014 study conducted by the WHO concluded that the average US citizen consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day. That’s more than double the recommended daily amount.

healthy-gourmetA sugar laden diet can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The problem is, the high sugar consumption by the average American isn’t due to eating sugar by the spoonful—it’s the hidden sugars added to many processed foods and drinks.

"Studies show that eating refined sugar causes energy depletion," writes Healthy Gourmet co-host Julie Daniluk on her website, "also known as the dreaded “sugar crash” when empty calories use our body’s vitamins and minerals to turn it into fuel. Think of it like a credit card for your body. Instead of using your resources for building health, refined sugar uses your resources and creates a deficit!"

So, should you enjoy strawberries or croissants for breakfast? 
The truth is, the human body doesn’t really need sugar in order to function. It has no nutritional value, but does have calories.

Sugar’s purpose in the human diet is to make food sweet. With all the heavy sugar-laden food that’s marketed and offered to us since birth, we have developed a taste for excessive sweetness.

So, how do you break a sugar habit? First and foremost, you need to know how to identify the hidden sugars in food. Here's how!  

To Avoid Sugar, Look Out For Hidden "Oses" Ingredients On The Nutrition Label 

Sugar goes by many names. There are natural occurring sugars such as molasses, honey, or corn syrup. These sugars are easy to identify because we know what they are. However, many sugars are listed on the labels of prepackaged foods. Most people don’t bother to look at the ingredient list on food. Instead, a quick glance over the nutrition facts is the most detective work many will do.

The nutritional label will list the total grams of sugar in a serving (both natural and processed). If you actually read the ingredient label on the back of many products, you will be shocked to see how many different types of sugars are added. For the most part, sugars end with the suffix “ose”. Here’s a list of the most commonly listed “oses”.

Sucrose– This is common table sugar. It’s made from sugarcane or sugar beets.
Sucralose- Many people know this one by the brand name, Splenda. It’s an artificial sweetener that is 320 to 1,000 times sweeter than sucrose. It’s doesn’t have any calories, which makes it popular for “diet” drinks. Research has shown that artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain.

Fructose – Although this is naturally occurring in fruit, when it’s isolated/extracted, it’s no longer wholesome. In fruit, it indicates that they are nutritionally rich. However, in soft drinks and other “sweets” it’s just empty calories.

Dextrose – Sweetener made from corn starch and is chemically identical to glucose or blood sugar. It is often used in baking products and in the medical industry to help raise blood sugar.
Glucose –This is the most important simple sugar in human metabolism and is naturally occurring in whole food. When you eat, your body converts food into glucose in order to be  oxidized in the body in the process called metabolism. When isolated from plants to be used as a sweetener, it’s no longer beneficial.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – This is an extremely refined and highly addictive liquid fructose from corn. It’s inexpensive and use in many products such as sodas and fruit drinks. There’s no nutritional value in it—just calories.

Lactose – This is milk sugar. Yes, milk has sugar in it. Its purpose it to provide nutrition to infant mammals. Many people are intolerant to lactose—it can cause gas, bloating, cramp, diarrhea and nausea after consumption.

Maltose –Although not a common sugar found in foods, this is a malt sugar necessary in the
fermentation of alcohol. It’s not as sweet as sucrose  and has been used as a sweetener as far back as the seventh century by the Chinese.

Galactose – This is a simple sugar primarily found in low-lactose or lactose-free milk, certain yogurts, cheeses, creams and ice creams. There are some other foods artificially sweetened with galactose, but it’s not a commonly used sweetener in most processed products.
Like anything in life, moderation is key. It’s okay to satisfy your sweet tooth every once in awhile, but when you do, make smart choices. To play it safe, stick with natural, unprocessed sugars. Your body will thank you later.

For more amazing tips on nutrition, check out Healthy Gourmet!

WATCH on Z Living: Healthy Gourmet, where nutritionist Julie Daniluk and chef Ezra Title join forces and battle between taste and nutrition, helping home cooks create nutritious and tasty meals that can feed a crowd. See a sneak preview here.

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