Where Your Sugar is Hiding; Natural and Added Sugar

Sugar is everywhere, but sometimes it’s not always obvious. Here are some of the other names for sugar, where it’s hiding, and what you need to know to stay healthy.

In a global effort to reduce added sugars, the information can get muddy.  Online articles can range from the idea that certain sugars can be more beneficial than others, while others maintain all simple carbohydrates should be avoided. 

While there may be many conflicting views, we do know that a reduction in added sugar intake can benefit everyone.

Why we need sugar

Carbohydrates are readily available fuel for all cells in form of blood glucose & stored in liver and muscle as glycogen.  These carbohydrates are used when the diet does not offer enough. If these liver stores are depleted (takes about 18 hours) and there is not enough taken in through food, the body is forced to produced its own carbohydrates from the body and from food, ultimately leading to health problems.

  • Simpler forms of carbohydrates are sugars and they generally are mono and di saccharides. More complex are polysaccharides which typically are starches and fibers.
  • Starches are the major digestible polysaccharide in our diets which are the storage forms of energy in plants
  • Fibers are for bulking up feces and not digested

What are the different forms of sugar?

Added sugars refers to sugar or syrups that are added to food during processing or preparation  Generally Seen in common sweets such as sodas, cookies, cakes pies, fruit drinks, fruit punch, and candy.

However, also can be present in non-sweet items like peanut butter and boxed dinners.  Added sugars aren’t chemically different than natural sugars, however, foods containing them have lower levels of vitamins and minerals (high in calories, low in nutrition) . They are removed from their natural environment, and are easy to over consume on,

Sugars of various crystal sizes provide unique functional characteristics that make the sugar suitable for different foods and beverages.  Some common types of industrialized sugar come in the following forms:

  • White sugar– also known as table sugar.
  • Powdered sugar– just white sugar blended. (finely ground)
  • Brown sugar = sugar crystals coated in molasses. Created my mixing molasses with white sugar crystals, or boiling a molasses syrup until brown sugar crystals form
  • Coconut Sugar– extracted from coconut plants, and does retain some nutrients- what’s left after high heating.  Also, may delay or slow absorption because of inulin. (a plant fiber)
  • Brown rice sugar– higher impact on blood sugar than (or higher in the GI) than table sugar.
  • Agave – large amounts of fructose in concentrate.  
  • Honey–folate  A mixture of sugars formed from nectar that bees make.  Honey varies in composition and flavor, depending on the source of the nectar. Honey contains much more fructose and much less sucrose than other sugars.  Honey is sweeter than table sugar.
  • Molasses–niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,  thick, dark brown syrup obtained from raw sugar during the refining process, a version of which is used in baking. (nutrients present, but very concentrated form of glucose)
  • Corn syrup High Fructose Corn Syrup:  This is made by treating corn to produce corn syrup.  The corn syrup is then treated to produce High Fructose Corn Syrup by converting much or all of the glucose to fructose. The resulting product is sweeter than sucrose.   The composition is then a high amount of fructose and some dextrose. Estimated to be about 1 1/2 times sweeter than table sugar.
  • Raw cane  The intermediate product during the processing or refining.  It is a tan, coarse granulated product obtained from the evaporation of clarified sugar cane juice. It is difficult to buy 100 percent raw sugar because of its impurities.

What’s best kind of sugar?

Sugar from fruit and milk is sufficient for a healthy diet.  Sugar from fruit is packaged with water, fiber, and essential micro nutrients.  Added sugars, some call free sugars, or industrialized sugar, is the sugar that must go through a processing plant to extract the sweet stuff. This type of sugar isn’t necessary in the diet. It’s main function is to sweeten processed foods.  

How much is too much sugar?

Sugar should be less than 25% of total calories, with added sugars under 10%!  (100 calories = 25 grams or 6 teaspoons

Diseases related to sugar

Tooth decay– No question! There are many studies that show tooth decay can be blamed on sugar (all simple carbs) The bacteria thrives on simple carbs.   Diets high in simple sugars can lead to high cholesterol! Obesity (perhaps 60% increase, mainly due to an increase number of calories, because of the high calorie nutrient poor nature of sugar.  The take away: optimize nutrient dense foods and limit added sugars.

All sugars breakdown to monosaccharides (single sugars) during digestion.  Your body doesn’t distinguish what foods or sugar sources they came from. Single sugars such as fructose in fruit and honey, can be absorbed exactly as they are, they don’t breakdown anymore.  Other sugars (sucrose in table sugar, brown sugar, etc) lactose (milk sugar) have to be broken down to their single sugar components for your body to absorb them. So your body breaks down all sugars into the same 3 things: fructose, glucose and galactose.

While all sugars contribute four calories per gram, some foods contain more concentrated sources of calories than others. For example, a teaspoon of table sugar contains 16 calories. Honey is a more dense calorie source – a teaspoon contains 22 calories. But a teaspoon of orange juice or applesauce has just four calories, and also contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Because added sugar gives us calories without nutrients, it is best to enjoy foods that are naturally sweet, without added sugar, or low sugar options..  And when you do add sugar, use whichever kind you prefer in moderation.

Where is sugar hidden?

  • Juices, dried fruits and yogurt, some “diet/low-fat” foods
  • Names: lactose, maltose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, galactose.
  • How to reduce without losing “sweetness”
    • Buy fresh fruits or fruits packed in water or own juices
    • Use sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, ginger and cardamom as well as pure extracts such as vanilla and almond
    • Start by getting used to less sugar a little at a time (for example, the sweetness of stevia is 100-300 times sweeter than regular sugar)
    • Nuts such as cashews and almonds
  • Our favorite recipes/food for low sugar
    • Popcorn, nuts, bell peppers
    • Sweet tooth? Oatmeal with drizzle of honey and nuts or homemade oatmeal cookies loaded with seeds and nuts.

Bottom line: choose whole foods, buy those with less added sugar, fill up with food you can chew instead of juices, sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar.

hidden sugar what you need to know

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  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have recently started to be way more conscious of my sugar intake and I was so surprised to see where sugar was hiding without me realizing (like my peanut butter!).

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