Headlines follow each other telling us that too much sugar is bad for your health. And when it comes to excess sugar consumption, added sugar is usually to blame. Because natural sugars that are contained in whole, unprocessed foods, such as fructose from fruit or lactose from dairy products, provide the body with the necessary amount of energy and are often associated with nutrients such as fiber or protein. Added sugar, on the other hand, is digested quickly and causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, creating a cascade of metabolically damaging reactions. High intake of added sugars can lead to fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and systemic inflammation. They are often associated with overweight and obesity. »
Added sugar shouldn’t account for more than 10% of daily calories, research shows that 3 out of 4 people eat more than that.
If you don’t add sugar to your foods, you might think there’s nothing to worry about, but some foods that don’t fall into the dessert category can contain a surprising amount of added sugar. According to a 2016 study published in BMJ Journal, processed foods, many of which aren’t even sweet, make up 90% of all added sugars people consume.
1 flavored yogurt
Shouldn’t yogurt be on the right list? Well it does, but it depends on the type of yogurt you buy. For example, fruit-based varieties often have more added sugar than fruit. Read the ingredients. If sugar is among the first three ingredients, leave the item on the shelf. And do you know that sugar can go by more than 60 names on ingredient lists, including cane juice and corn syrup. Or opt for plain yogurt to start and add your own ingredients. Cinnamon, fresh fruit, mashed berries, unsweetened applesauce, roasted and unsalted nuts and seeds are great ingredients to add flavor without added sugar.
2 cans of soup
You’ve heard that canned soup is high in sodium. But did you know that it can also be filled with this sweet product? Tomato-based soups generally have the highest sugar content. Some condensed soups contain up to 15 grams (g) of sugar per 1.5 cups. Sugar reduces the acidity of tomatoes to balance out the flavor, so check soup labels carefully before buying, especially when dealing with tomato-based varieties.
3 salad dressing
Dressing is one of the main ways a seemingly healthy salad can instantly go from a good choice to a diet disaster. But it’s not just because of the fats that make up salad dressings. Some salad dressings contain up to 6g of sugar per serving. And it turns out that the low-fat, fat-free versions tend to have the highest added sugars. When manufacturers remove fat from a product, they often add more sugar to replace the flavor.
Your best option? Try hummus, tzatziki, citrus juices, vinegar and even mashed berries for an easy and healthy way to flavor your salads.
4 tomato sauce
Canned tomato sauces are convenient, but can be a sneaky source of sugar that’s often added to tone down the sour taste of tomatoes and keep canned sauces fresher longer. Again, this is not the natural sugar, but glucose syrup and other added sugars. And some pot sauces contain up to 4g in half a cup. If you’re having trouble finding sauces with little or no added sugar, try a can of plain diced tomatoes instead. Just drain the juices, puree, and add your own seasoning for a quick sugar-free sauce. You might end up creating a sauce that you love more than anything you can find on the shelves.
5 fruit juices
Fruit juices are definitely not all the same. For example, some types of fruit juice only contain pure orange juice. Other beverages labeled as fruit juice are loaded with added sugar and other ingredients. Check product labels and look for juices that only list fruit juice in the ingredient list or that say “100% juice” or “no added sugar” anywhere on the label. Or, better yet, opt for the whole fruit instead. Bonus: Research has shown that choosing whole fruits like apples and grapes over their juice equivalents can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
6 muesli and snack bars
Did you eat a candy bar for breakfast? Granola bars and snacks often appear much healthier than they actually are. Some brands contain up to 11g of sugar per bar, and you may find white flour in the ingredients list. Avoid bars with sugar in the first three ingredients. There are some that contain very little or no added sugar. You may also consider snacking on a handful of whole nuts and whole or unsweetened dried fruit instead. (We’ll come back to dried fruit later).
7 dried fruits
Dried fruits tend to look a lot healthier than they are. A handful of dried cranberries, for example, can contain up to 27g of added sugars on top of the sugars naturally found in the fruit. Sugar levels tend to be higher in dried fruits, which are naturally tart. Look for options that only list fruit as an ingredient and no added sugars. These products usually bear the notice “no added sugar” on the front.