The low-fat craze of the 1980s is often termed the “War on Fat”, and what’s a war without some dirty politics? It turns out The Sugar Association was paying researchers to publish studies to show a link between fat and heart disease while downplaying the negative health effects of sugar.
Consumers listened to this “science”; they began avoiding eggs like the plague, and reduced-fat products became all the rage. Meanwhile the obesity rates climbed and our health status deteriorated.
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Now, decades later, the sugar industry is getting a taste of its own medicine. Fortunately, this is not another “War on Fat” driven by skewed science, but rather the truth being brought to light.
Sugar is finally getting its due attention in the media; from the Berkeley and Philadelphia sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, to the American Heart Association’s recommendation to limit children’s sugar consumption to less than six teaspoons per day.
While the media’s attention on sugar may be novel, the idea that “sugar is bad for you” isn’t exactly a revolutionary recommendation. It is no secret that soda and sweets should be consumed in moderation.
Unfortunately the sugar industry not only managed to whittle their way into scientific research, they have also snuck into our food supply in places we wouldn’t expect. There is so much hidden sugar in food. This means that you could never drink soda or eat dessert, and still be eating too much sugar.
So what qualifies as added sugar?
Well, items such as fresh fruit and milk contain sugar naturally; in the form of fructose in fruit, and lactose in milk. These natural sugars do not count against your 24-36 grams of sugar per day. Added sugar can take on many names; if you see any word ending in -ose (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, sucrose) in the ingredient list, that is likely sugar.
If you see any “syrup” listed (sorghum syrup, corn syrup solids, brown rice syrup), that is also sugar. You may also see terms such as barley malt and evaporated cane juice. All in all, there are over 60 words that may be used to disguise sugar.
So where will you find these hidden sugars?
Let’s take a look at a seemingly healthy breakfast of yogurt, granola and coffee. You have 1 cup of Stonyfield Organic vanilla yogurt, ½ cup of Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola, and add 1 tablespoon of Coffee-mate French Vanilla creamer to your coffee; not so bad, right?
Unfortunately, this meal adds up to 43 grams of added sugar, and exceeds the added sugar recommendation for the entire day. To put it in perspective, a 12 ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of added sugar.
Sugar may also be hiding in salad dressing, oatmeal, bread, barbecue sauce, peanut butter, pasta sauce, and crackers, to name a few. For instance, just two tablespoons, or about two thumbs-worth of barbecue sauce contains 16 grams of sugar. That is ⅔ of a woman’s added sugar allowance, if you only use a measly two tablespoons.
What about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread?
You get about 3 grams of sugar in each piece of bread, 3 grams of sugar in the peanut butter, and 13 grams of sugar in the jelly, for a grand total of 22 grams of sugar. Unless, you are sticking to the 2 tablespoon serving size for peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon serving size for jelly, this total would realistically be even higher.
So, you see how these hidden sugars can add up quickly. Fortunately, the new food labels will separate added sugar from naturally-existing sugar, and food manufacturers will likely work to reformulate some of these deceiving products. Until then be wary of hidden sugars and choose low-sugar options when buying processed foods.
At the end of the day, consumers have the power to influence our food supply and set the sugar industry straight.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Charmaine Jones