Stealth Sugars in Your Food

This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column for The Times Herald Record.

The Unsweetened Truth, Part 3: Stealth Sugars

Part 1 of this series explained that sugar can have serious, undesirable health consequences. Part 2, that artificial sweeteners are not a good alternative, as they don’t help you lose weight or eat less, and are unhealthy. Today, let’s look at how sugar sneaks into your diet.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugars each day for men, and 6 for women, but most people have many times that. Top sources? Soft drinks, candies, pastries, and fruit drinks, including 100% juice. The next source may surprise you: it’s milk and dairy products.  The endocrinologist I trained wtih preferred milk to orange juice to quickly raise blood sugar for diabetics: there are more than 3 teaspoons of natural sugars in a cup of low-fat milk. Two cups of fat free chocolate milk? More than 10 teaspoons.  Six ounces of yogurt can have almost 8 teaspoons. That’s a lot of sugar.

Sugar is addictive: according to research, as addictive as cocaine.  No wonder manufacturers add it to their products.  Most processed foods have added sugars, including many we don’t think of as sweet, such as salad dressings, breads and rolls, ketchup, sauces and marinades, tomato sauce, peanut butter, and cereals.  Beware low or no-fat products, which are likely to be higher in added sugar than comparable full-fat foods.  Sugars are even added to traditionally salty foods, like crackers and fried chicken.  A BIg Mac has more than 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Even natural sugars can be problematic.  Though many people think of fruit as a “freebie” for healthy eating, our systems evolved at a time when fruit was only available in small amounts, and for a short part of the year.  Now we can buy fruits from around the world, year round.  Too much fructose (fruit sugar) stresses the liver and raises triglycerides.  A banana or an ear of corn (actually a grain but as sweet as fruit) each have over 4 teaspoons of sugar, an orange almost 6. Lowest glycemic fruits include berries and grapefruit, so choose these.

Be a good detective: identify and eliminate stealth sugars in your diet. It will help keep your metabolism and your hormones healthy. Your body will thank you with better energy and better health.

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