Sugar (artificial and real) is the culprit behind a lot of negative health effects like cavities and weight gain. A lot of people try to monitor and control how much sugar they take in in order to lose weight or just feel better from the inside out. However, sugar is hiding in more foods than you think.
Learn for yourself below and ask yourself if you are consuming too much sugar.
Hidden Sugar Foods to Avoid & Healthier Alternatives
Today, the average adult living in the U.S. consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugars every single day, including from hidden sugar foods they might actually believe are “healthy.” Compare this to the amount of added sugar recommended by authorities such as the World Health Organization and American Heart Association: no more than six teaspoons or about 100 calories a day of added sugar for most women, or nine teaspoons (150 calories) per day for most men. (1, 2) This equates to no more than about 5 percent to 10 percent of total calories, which in many ways in still a significant amount.
While there’s lots of conflicting theories about which type of diet is healthiest and most likely to protect against chronic diseases or obesity, limiting your intake of added sugar foods turns out to be one of the few things nearly all health experts agree on. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states, “Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits.” (3)
Added sugar intake is a real problem in most industrialized nations and, due to how cheap it is to produce, today even less developed nations too. Consuming lots of added or hidden sugar has been found to be associated with problems including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar is now even linked to cancer and many other conditions tied to impaired immune function.
If you’re already convinced that kicking your sugar addiction is well worth any extra effort or trade-offs involved, the next step is to learn just how to do it. Below you’ll learn more about hidden sugar foods to carefully avoid, various names that hidden sweeteners and processed sugar now go by, and healthier low-sugar alternatives to start exploring instead.
10 Places Sugar Is Hiding in Your Diet (Hidden Sugar Foods)
Studies and surveys have found that the major food and beverage sources of added sugars for Americans, whether they’re aware of it or not, are:
desserts or snacks, including cakes, cookies, pies and cobblers
sweetened teas and fruit drinks, such as iced tea, fruit punch, etc.
dairy desserts, including ice cream
These sources of sugar might seem pretty obvious, but they aren’t the only foods responsible for world’s increased sugar consumption. Added sugars are found in thousands of common food and beverages found in most grocery stores, including “natural” and organic foods sold at health food stores. Most research suggests that for both genders and nearly all age groups, a combination of sugary non-alcoholic beverages (e.g., soft drinks and fruit-flavored drinks) and processed grain products (e.g., sweet bakery products) are where the highest percentage of hidden sugars are found. (4)
Here are 10 of the most common “healthy” foods that actually have lots of sugar hiding in them: (5)
- Cereals, including hot cereals like flavored oatmeal
- Packaged breads, including “whole grain” kinds
- Snack or granola bars
- “Lower calorie” drinks, including coffees, energy drinks, blended juices and teas
- Protein bars and meal replacements
- Sweetened yogurts and other dairy products (like flavored kefir, frozen yogurt, etc.)
- Frozen waffles or pancakes
- Bottled sauces, dressings, condiments and marinades (like tomato sauce, ketchup, relish or teriyaki, for example)
- Dried fruit and other fruit snacks
- Restaurant foods, where sugar is used in sauces, various desserts and dressings for extra flavor
What makes avoiding sugar so confusing or difficult for most people is this: Not all sugar is inherently bad, and not all types of “sugar” are created equal. Something important to point out here is that added sugar is the real problem, not sugar in the form of fructose found in things like fresh fruit.
Fructose, the type of natural sugar found in modest amounts in real foods like fruits and even vegetables, is generally not something to worry about when consumed as part of a balanced diet because it’s metabolized differently than when ingested in high amounts from processed foods. In fact, studies show that people consuming more of these fresh plant foods experience increased protection against many of the same diseases that added sugar contributes to (heart disease, cancer, etc.).
The real problem lays in consuming hidden sugar foods like sweetened yogurts, cereals, snack bars, juices and other drinks that contain lots of refined “white” sugar and very high amounts of fructose. The primary difference between something like fruit and soda is this: Processed foods supply lots of sugar in the form of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin, without also providing you with fiber, healthy fats or protein to slow down sugar absorption.
It’s estimated that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) alone now accounts for nearly 40 percent of all caloric sweeteners used in the U.S. HFCS is especially common in sources of “empty calories” like soda — including diet soda — sweetened teas, desserts and candy. (6) As of 2004, the average American got roughly 8 percent of his or her total energy intake from HFCS compared to 17 percent from all added sugars combined (about 377 calories per day/person). Processed sweeteners like HFCS and other isolated sugars have been found to be sweeter and less expensive than other added sweeteners (such as honey), allowing food and beverage manufacturers to increase the sweetness of their products at very low cost. This has led to an increase in the intensity of sweetness in many foods, increased calories consumed from sweets, and higher chance for sugar dependency or “addiction.”
Source: Dr. Axe