It probably doesn't surprise anyone that sugar isn’t considered a health food. It’s been linked to diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and causes inflammation in our bodies. The United States alone consumes an average of 126 grams of sugar per day (via the Diabetes Council), which is equivalent to over 1/2 cup! There are also studies about the addictive qualities of sugar that state that it may be more addictive than cocaine.
But are most of us sitting around eating chocolate chip cookies and candy all day?
Surprisingly enough, the reason for such high sugar consumption in the U.S. is not necessarily because of poor diet choices, but because of the amount of sugar that is added to our foods without even realizing it.
Sugar takes many forms when it comes to food labels. Of course “cane sugar,” “white sugar,” and “brown sugar” are recognizable and obvious, but sugar is also found in foods as the following ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, carob syrup, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, corn syrup solids, ethyl malt, glucose, malt syrup, rice syrup, fructose, and more! Johns Hopkins Medicine says there are over 60 different names for added sugars.
Companies benefit from adding these various forms of sugars to their processed food items to make them more appealing to the taste buds. Unfortunately for us, if we don't know about places where sugar may be added for flavor, we have higher sugar intake than we even realized.
Here is a list of foods to be aware of that may contain added sugar:
- Condiments — ketchups, BBQ sauces, mustards, teriyaki sauces, mayos, relishes, etc.
- Salad dressings/marinades
- Flavored chips — even the “savory” ones! Maltodextrin is a common one to find on chip bags
- Fruit juices — some are all natural, but many (if not most) have added sugar in addition to the natural sugar
- Cereals and oatmeals — even the “health” brands, and especially if they are flavored.
- Packaged breads — especially white breads, but still in many “whole grain” breads
- Protein and granola bars
- Cured and processed deli meats
- Nut butters
- Canned foods
- Teas and coffees
It can be overwhelming and almost surprising once you start reading the ingredients on nutrition labels to find the variety of added sugars! But before you worry, it's important to remember that awareness is key. Everyone deserves to have all the proper knowledge about what goes into their bodies first, then they can move forward making whatever choices they feel are best. But the sneaky, addictive quality of adding sugars to our packaged foods should be well-known and addressed by all when it comes to our health.
What foods are you surprised to see on this list? Do you feel that you’ll be more attentive during your next grocery trip? Let me know in the comments!