A nightmare in the grocery isle
Ahhhhhhh….that wonderful snowy white stuff that titillates the taste buds and keeps you craving for more. It was called White Gold by the British. It is a substance that can make even the most strong-willed dieter, cave. Fights have broken out over that last piece of candy or spoonful of ice cream. Parents have been known to stash sweets away from the kids. And it’s common knowledge that a Halloween haul full of premium candy is worth its weight in gold when it comes to barter.
How about when you’re grocery shopping and you’re trying to be good but, through no fault of your own, your grocery cart acts like it’s on auto-pilot and goes straight to the candy isle. You manage to get out of that aisle when your cart zooms to the cookie isle. Your resistance is getting low, but you manage to free yourself and head for the checkout lane with all of your healthy fresh produce when all of a sudden, your cart makes a sharp left and takes you straight to the bakery section. It’s over. You put up a good fight but caved to that five-layer triple chocolate cake topped with a chocolate ganache.
Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there.
One of the reasons we turn to sugar at times of celebration or when we crave comfort and reward, is the instant ‘lift’ we get. Even those of us without a sweet tooth are probably eating more than we realize because processed foods, from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and soups contain sugar.
Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in many different foods from lactose in milk to the fructose in fruit and honey. We require some sugar in our diets to supply ready energy to fuel our muscles and keep our brains active. We run into problems with the many processed foods that have added sugar. This sugar supplies energy in the form of calories, and very little else.
Sugar will put you in a vicious cycle of “highs” and “lows” that may be a contributing factor to weight problems as well as health concerns such as diabetes, heart and autoimmune disease.
Hiding in the shadows
Sugar is like the cop who hides off the road where you can’t see him. Then, when you go speeding by, you see his lights in your rearview mirror. If you had seen him, you would have slowed down, right? Well, sugar is like that. It’s hidden in our food where we don’t realize it.
- To help improve their taste and palatability and to add bulk and texture in the place of fat, low-fat and ‘diet’ foods regularly contain added sugar.
- Ready-made soups and sauces, and other savory foods contain added sugar.
- On average, a can of soda contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.
- In order to satisfy our desire for greater sweetness, the natural sugar in some fruit, including apples, has increased as new varieties (including Pink Lady, Fuji and Jazz) are bred.
Read the labels
It’s really important to read food labels. Everyone knows how to look at the sugar content, but one thing I’m sure most people don’t do when reading labels is looking at the ‘carbs as sugars’ on the nutrition panel. This is including both natural and added sugars; less than 5g per 100g is low, more than 15g per 100g is high.
Look for anything ending in ‘ose’ (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose). These are all forms of sugar. Same with honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup. Remember, the higher up the ingredients list, the more sugar the product contains.
Sugar is the big bad wolf of the diet world, but not that many of us know quite how to quit it or, in fact, what the downsides to a sugary diet actually are.)
No matter how careful you are to avoid the real thing, you still have to be extra vigilant to watch for added sugars lurking in what seem like healthy foods, such as energy bars or bottled tomato sauce.
Educating the public about the hidden sources of sugar might be the most effective tool we have to reduce consumption for now, says Suicide By Sugar author Nancy Appleton. The popularity of the recently released documentary Fed Up, which blames the food industry and government for pushing sugar and creating the child obesity, epidemic is a sign the message is slowly reaching the mainstream.
“It will take a long time for companies to respond, unless they can come up with something else that people enjoy as much as sugar,” she says. “They know it’s addictive and that people will come back for more.”
Breaking up with sugar – “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Beware of foods that are considered “healthy” because they can contain shocking amounts of added sugar or fructose, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). If I had to pick out the worst culprit among sugars, it would be fructose. Those who consume HFCS tend to develop higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease.