The FAQ Series: Sugar, Part Two

In Part One of our series on sugar, we discussed the most common sugars you might have at home and typically use in your own drinks and baked goods. Food processing companies, however, have access to dozens more ingredients that they can use in their products, all of which are sugar – but under different names.

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Here’s a fun game: how many different names for sugar can you find on this ingredient label?

Keep in mind that labeling laws in the U.S. require a product’s ingredients to be listed in descending weight order, with the most prevalent ingredient first and so on. Because added sugars are in at least 75% of all processed foods (a conservative estimate), manufacturers are understandably wary of listing sugar as one of the first three ingredients, even if that’s technically true. So the loophole here is to obviously identify sugars individually – that is, maltodextrin separate from high fructose corn syrup which is separate from invert sugar and so on. Did you know that sugar goes by over 60 different names on American food labels, and anything ending in “-ose” is sugar? If you see more than three of these on a product label – especially if they occur within the top three ingredients – put it back on the shelf.

  1. Agave nectar
  2. Barbados sugar
  3. Barley malt
  4. Barley malt syrup
  5. Beet sugar
  6. Brown sugar
  7. Buttered syrup
  8. Cane juice
  9. Cane juice crystals
  10. Cane sugar
  11. Caramel
  12. Carob syrup
  13. Castor sugar
  14. Coconut palm sugar
  15. Coconut sugar
  16. Confectioner’s sugar
  17. Corn sweetener
  18. Corn syrup
  19. Corn syrup solids
  20. Date sugar
  21. Dehydrated cane juice
  22. Demerara sugar
  23. Dextrin
  24. Dextrose
  25. Evaporated cane juice
  26. Free-flowing brown sugars
  27. Fructose
  28. Fruit juice
  29. Fruit juice concentrate
  30. Glucose
  31. Glucose solids
  32. Golden sugar
  33. Golden syrup
  34. Grape sugar
  35. HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup)
  36. Honey
  37. Icing sugar
  38. Invert sugar
  39. Malt syrup
  40. Maltodextrin
  41. Maltol
  42. Maltose
  43. Mannose
  44. Maple syrup
  45. Molasses
  46. Muscovado
  47. Palm sugar
  48. Panocha
  49. Powdered sugar
  50. Raw sugar
  51. Refiner’s syrup
  52. Rice syrup
  53. Saccharose
  54. Sorghum syrup
  55. Sucrose
  56. Sugar (granulated)
  57. Sweet sorghum
  58. Syrup
  59. Treacle
  60. Turbinado sugar
  61. Yellow sugar

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But salad is so healthy! You’ve got to add some sugar to it to make it taste good.

One of the most significant and positive changes to occur in American food labeling was scheduled to go into effect in 2018, and that was the mandatory addition of “added sugars” in the standard nutrition facts box. Unfortunately, the FDA caved to massive pressure from major food companies and rolled back the deadline indefinitely. Given the current administration’s daily commitment to undermining both the public’s (and the environment’s) health, it will come as no surprise when this new deadline is again pushed back, or perhaps eliminated entirely.

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Some companies opted to go forward with the revised labeling, as seen here. Notice the large calories per serving number, and the added sugars.

The revised labeling was important because it would have helped Americans understand just how much sugar is added to processed foods, even ones you might not suspect. Yogurt, bread, granola bars, spaghetti sauce, condiments and hundreds of other products contain added sugars – so much that we’re now consuming upwards of seventy pounds of added sugars each year. And while soda and other sweetened drinks (looking at you, Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino!) can rightfully take a lot of blame for this, sugar and all its cousins help food manufacturers immensely. Sugar obviously gives foods a sweeter taste, but it also aids in preservation, browning and in masking the taste of other unpleasant chemicals used to process food. Plus, at an industrial level, it’s really cheap.

Because the FDA clearly doesn’t want to help you eat better, you’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. Read every single ingredient label. Sugar is typically listed in grams, and about 4 grams equals one teaspoon of sugar. Current recommendations are for women to eat no more than six teaspoons of added sugar (about 100 calories) per day, and for men to eat no more than nine teaspoons (about 150 calories). Caloric requirements vary widely based on body type, activity level and a host of other factors, but just know that your body will never, ever suffer if you give it less sugar. You’ll still get all the sugar you need from a whole-food diet centered on fruit, quality dairy, vegetables and whole grains.

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This yogurt contains the same amount of sugar per ounce as soda.

Also, be wary of the numerous products with “health halos,” meaning that they’re perceived as healthy even though they’re often loaded with sugar. Yogurt is one of the biggest villains; it’s been sold as a magical cure-all but in truth it’s more like dessert. The six-ounce cups above contain 19 grams of sugar; that’s close to your entire daily allowance of added sugar, and it’s just in one little yogurt. Add in a granola bar and a sweetened coffee drink and you’re done for the week. Instead, make your own yogurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit.

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Spreads, like peanut butter and Nutella, are a major source of hidden added sugar. 

Nut butters have health halos too, but most contain lots of added sugars. Notice the peanut butter packet in front; it contains 8 grams of sugar per 32 gram serving. The peanut butter in the upper right, however, is just peanuts and salt, so you’re only consuming 1 gram of sugar in that same 32 gram serving. Plus, the front of the peanut butter packet proudly shouts “Natural peanut butter made with honey!” While that may be true, it contains more dried cane syrup than honey, demonstrating that honey is perceived as a “good-for-you sugar.” Watch out for this sort of confusing and manipulative advertising. (We won’t even discuss the fake Nutella in the upper left. It’s all sugar and palm oil.)

Sugar 12 sml

Remember, if you don’t know what it is you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Next up: we talk about how the sugar industry, like Big Tobacco, has known for decades that sugar is hugely detrimental to our health, and how they’ve managed to conceal that – while placing blame squarely on saturated fat. Plus, you’ll learn what sugar actually does to your body, and we’ll provide some helpful tips on how to reduce sugar in your diet!

 

5 thoughts on “The FAQ Series: Sugar, Part Two

  1. Thank you for this post series. I’m a little confused on what “added sugar” means….isn’t it all “added sugar”?

    Years ago I would have considered myself to have a pretty big “sweet tooth”, but I’m not sure if I’ve just outgrown it as I’ve gotten older or just paying more attention to my body and how I feel when I eat sugar, but last couple of years I have come noticed that sugar does not really taste very good to me most of the time (and for sure makes me feel terrible if I eat more than just a bite or two). Whatever the reason, I’m happy with this shift and certainly feel better day to day then back in the days when I felt like I needed a “sugar fix”. Now I find that a piece of fruit is plenty sweet enough and anything sweeter almost tastes repulsive.

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    • Hi Kelly! Thanks for your comment, and I agree with you about sugar satiety; we eat far fewer sweets in our house than we used to, and a lot more fruit. As for added sugar, it simply means anything that doesn’t occur naturally in the food. Tomatoes, for example, have lots of natural sugar, so a can of pureed tomatoes would include a certain amount of sugar. It’s the added sugar, however, that the manufacturer adds in for flavor, preservation, or economy. We’re going to discuss this a bit more in our final post, but basically added sugar is anything that isn’t in the food naturally.

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  2. Pingback: The FAQ Series: Sugar, Part Three | Finding Quiet Farm

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