But what if consumers didn't realize that "added sugars" really are the ingredients that hold the most weight in their particular food product? What if food manufacturers found a way to get around the "ingredients with the most weight" loophole and hide their added sugar content with cleverly labeled, and sneaky divide and conquer tactics?
Click the title of this post or the “read more” link to find out the sneaky trick food manufacturers are getting away with.
But, as more and more consumers are becoming aware, it's not always labeled as "sugar" in packaged food products.
Before I continue let me make this clear: I'm not talking about the natural sugars that are found in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Those foods contain a host of natural fibers, vitamins, minerals, etc., that our bodies need. Foods with added sugars, on the other hand, don’t often have all the good stuff to go along with them. “Although the body handles naturally occurring and added sugar in the same way, foods high in added sugar tend to have lower nutrient densities, and thus, provide little nutritional value. By contrast, foods with naturally occurring sugars tend to be higher in nutrients.” (Source)
So it’s “added sugars,” we should be aware of. It’s those sugars that have been added to a food product that normally wouldn't have it that we should be weary of...because they're lurking around every corner.
Here are just some of the names "sugar" can be disguised as in packaged food products:
maltose (anything with "ose" at the end, actually)
fruit juice concentrates
high fructose corn syrup
cane juice crystals
dehydrated cane juice
But that's not even the scariest part. Food manufactures can use multiple names in an effort to divide the total amount of added sugars so that they fall lower on the ingredient list. In other words, 15g of added sugar can be disguised as 5g of dextrose, 5g of brown sugar, and 5 g of caramel. Each of these ingredients would fall lower and lower on the ingredient label. But in the end, you're still consuming 15g of added sugars.
Why Is This a Problem?
It’s no secret that North Americans consume WAY more sugar than is recommended. In fact, some statistics quote as much as 26 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That’s more than 3 times the recommended 6 teaspoons a day according to the American Heart Association!!! (Source)
Look, everyone knows that if you reach for a can of your favourite soft drink, or a chocolate bar, you’re in for a major sugar kick. You’ve made the choice to consume all that sugar. But chances are, if you’re scouring the aisles for a box of whole grain crackers that you can snack on instead of that chocolate bar…you’re probably making an honest effort to eat less sugar and get more nutrition.
So it would really suck to learn that you may be consuming just as much sugar as that chocolate bar you were trying so hard to avoid..
The bottom line is if you’re going to be consuming food products that come in a package, you need to read labels really carefully.
- Forget about the nutrition info. It’s not that it’s unimportant, but when it comes to the biological chemistry of our bodies, all calories are not created equal. If the majority of our calories are coming from whole, unprocessed, natural foods, then our bodies will instinctively know what to do with any calories, fat grams, proteins, etc that might be in them.
- Instead of the nutrition label, look at the ingredients list and study it. Are there any hidden sugars lurking in there under cleverly disguised names? Are you getting more than what you bargained for?
- Perhaps put the package down and consider making that food item from scratch using whole, natural ingredients. Your version will probably taste 100 times better, and your body will thank you for it.
Check out these articles to see where I got the inspiration for this post.
Hungry for Change: How to Spot Sugar on Food Labels
Stats Canada: Sugar Consumption