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Sugar Pseudonyms

The Deceitful way food producers hide sugar in their products

When we think of our modern problems with sugar, most people’s minds go to a few obvious places, deserts and treats, supersized soft drinks and, when it comes to kids, many sugary breakfast cereals and fruit juices. The obvious sources are easy to cut back on, but it’s rooting out the “hidden sugars” that presents an even bigger challenge because most people don’t even know they are there.

     Guided by recommendations from institutions including the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggest we limit our consumption of added “free sugar” (as opposed to naturally occurring sugar in fruit) to about six teaspoons a day (25 grams), some people have moved away from double-doubles and doughnuts. Far fewer have resolved to give up our barbeque sauce and salad dressing because we don’t expect to find a lot of sugar there.

     A recent check in the supermarket showed that President’s choice Smokin’ Stampede Beer Chipotle barbeque sauce had 14 grams of sugar per a two tablespoonful serving. A couple of others came in a bit lower, Kraft Original Barbeque sauce has 7 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoonful serving; Diana Sauce in Honey Garlic, 11 grams.

     Just to be clear, all the natural sugars in fruit are extremely good for you and even Type 2 diabetics should eat fruit every day. Bu

t I am talking about the hidden sugars in ketchup, steak sauce and relish. One of the most surprising is spaghetti sauce—which can pack as much as 10 grams per serving. Most canned soups, oatmeal, power bars, rice cakes, coleslaw, breads and cakes contain added sugar.

     It all got there because 150 years ago, sugar was recognized as a “good helper” food that enhanced flavours. More recently, food processors discovered increasing sugar led to more cravings. So they deliberately made packaged foods sweeter (and saltier and fatter), establishing a “bliss point” to make us come back for more.

     Sugar is hiding in nearly all the packaged food in the supermarket. Two-thirds of pre-packaged foods on the shelf contain added sugars according to Dr. Jodi Bernstein of the University of Toronto’s L’Abbe Lab which focusses on food and nutrition policy research.

     Did you know that there are 152 different words for sugar? Most of us are getting better and know that anything ending in “-ose” such as glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose is a sugar. But so are all syrups such as maple syrup or rice syrup. One of the worst offenders is high fructose corn syrup but then there are the very secret hidden sugars known as

  • Barley malt
  • Cane juice
  • Caramel
  • molasses
  • Dextran
  • Fruit juice
  • Ethyl maltol

     At least they have nutritional labels, unlike alcohol producers who are not required to list added sugars in Canada. One rum tested in Europe had 96 grams of sugar per litre. Wine is healthier. A five ounce glass of red table wine contains about 0.9 grams of sugar, while a glass of chardonnay contains about 1.4 grams. The problem is not the sugar in the alcohol but the fact that we are not looking for it and are unknowingly contributing to our sugar intake for the day.

     It doesn’t take long to get to that 6 teaspoonful limit especially when it’s hiding in everything you eat. Once you know where the sugar is, I would suggest getting rid of all the stealth sugars and enjoying one or two deserts a week. You would be trading in all the sugars found in soups, sauces and other savoury foods for a nice dish of ice cream or a slice of cheese cake. Replace your barbeque sauce or your favourite Pad Thai sauce with some healthy dark chocolate. That way you get your sugar in a far healthier form.

     But the best trade of all is to give up all the products with hidden sugars for a healthy life that does not include obesity, sugar diabetes, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Being wise about your food choices can only lead to a healthy, happy and more fulfilling life style. [print_link]