If you are anything like most people, you might not mind buying something with a lot of sugar when you like indulging and do so intentionally. However, you don’t want to feed yourself and your family foods loaded up on sugar and junk on accident just because the package painted a different picture with confusing or misleading phrasing. Learning to read food labeling and knowing exactly what to look for on the ingredient list is the most important skill you can attain if you are looking to have family healthy meals.
A recent study showed that more than half of Americans find food labels misleading or confusing. Since food fraud is real, I hope to clarify a few things so you can detect mislabeled foods especially when it comes to ‘sugar.’ Keep in mind, even when you carefully check labels for nutrition, fat, sugar, sodium, total calories or specialty claims like organic and gluten-free, what you see on the package may not necessarily be what you get.
Make it a habit to ask yourself the following questions before you purchase any pre-packaged foods:
- How much total sugar, including added sugar, is in the product?
- Where does the sugar come from?
- How many calories per serving size are in the product? If you care to focus on calorie intake
- What percent of daily value is sodium? If you are watching sodium for medical reasons, especially if you are dealing with a cardiac issue i.e. hypertension, other heart conditions or kidney disease.
- Based on this food label, would you consider this product to be healthy? Why or Why not?
According to Huffpost.com, the majority of false labels are due to outright food fraud. Nearly one-third of fish is mislabeled every year, according to research by nonprofit foundation Oceana. Oftentimes, inexpensive types of fish are labeled as more expensive fish tricking consumers into spending far more. In other cases, the labels are due to manufacturer error such as putting a gluten-free claim on a product containing barley. Finally, labels can sometimes be outright confusing because of the way the FDA defines a serving size or a sugar may not be listed the way we understand it.
As a scientist and researcher, I find sugar labeling to be most deceiving. Interestingly, my patients come to me thinking they are consuming little processed sugar, but in their food diet diary, it turns out that they are unintentionally consuming far more sugar than they think.
In one particular case, she thought she was consuming zero sugar drinks and couldn’t quite understand why sugar markers in the lab were high. Well, it turned out that the zero sugar drink had about 30 grams of hidden sugar in it. She was drinking about 2 cans of zero sugar drink each day, which equaled 60 grams of sugar. No wonder why she couldn’t quite get her blood sugar under control even with anti-diabetic medications.
Regardless of your current health situation, it’s highly advised to not exceed 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrate (sugar) intake per day. The medical industry indicates that a high intake of carbohydrates, including sugar, releases the feel-good chemical in the brain called serotonin, leading to what we call ‘a sugar high.’ Like any drug-induced rush, this feeling of ‘a sugar high’ is only temporary and within minutes or hours you start to crash and you become tired, fatigued, lethargic and crave even more.
Also, research shows that sugar is 8 times as addictive as cocaine-but it’s not only legal, it’s everywhere. The worst part is that the more sugar you eat, the higher your tolerance becomes. While hormonal and genetic factors may play a cause in food preferences, it’s ultimately your own dietary daily habits and food choices that create a deepening addiction. The scariest of all is that you may be feeding yourself and your family the ‘sugar monster’ without even knowing it.
It’s easy to be aware of sugar intake when you drink soda or munch on candy, however, many prepared food manufacturers add ‘hidden’ sugar to their foods and you may not be aware of it. You may or may not expect to find sugar in bread, cereal, tomato sauce, soup, soy sauce, yogurt, sushi, peanut butter, packaged chicken, salad dressing, low-fat products, or crackers.
For example, honey that has been diluted with corn syrup or sugar, while olive oil can be mixed with cheaper oils. Even when the label doesn’t say ‘sugar’ directly, it could still be hidden in food under a different name, such as:
- Corn syrup
- Agave syrup
- Maple syrup
Research studies also show a direct correlation with increased overweight and obesity by 37% since process sugar rise in the market. Even when you avoid the obvious sugary foods, and read labels you may still consume too much sugar if you eat bread, pasta, potatoes and fruit juice regularly.
Here are some Simple Carbs (food) examples that turn into sugar that you should AVOID or limit if you’re looking to increase energy, lose weight, regulate blood sugar, enhance focus, or improve your overall health.
- Baked bannock
- Saltine crackers
- Hot cereal
- Cold cereal
- Pancake or waffle
- Cooked rice, barley, rye, millet, amaranth
- Cooked pasta
I recently held a Facebook live event where I covered this topic in depth. You can watch the replay below.
152, D. (2017, January 06). Sugar Is Not Only a Drug but a Poison Too. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sugar-is-not-only-a-drug-but-a-poison-too_b_8918630
Finding the Hidden Sugar in the Foods You Eat.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/finding-the-hidden-sugar-in-the-foods-you-eat.
Mottl, Pooja R. “Hidden Sugars In Your Food.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 May 2011, www.huffpost.com/entry/food-labels-hidden-sugars_b_808881.