The hidden sugars in foods

When discussing hidden sources of sugars with my clients I usually ask them to seek hidden sugar in the foods that are otherwise considered healthy.

They are often surprised when I suggest fruit juices top the list.


Though fruit juice is considered to have more nutrients than empty calorie junk foods, if you look at nutrition facts they are the most laden with sugars. The fact that food contains vitamins and antioxidants doesn’t make it sugar-free.

How much sugar is there in your fruit juice?

The answer to this question depends on how it’s consumed, and what foods it replaces. Fruit juice that has been robbed of its fiber and broad range of nutrients is basically just a concentrated source of sugar that lacks the supportive nutrients to help it digest and metabolize.

It elevates blood sugar more quickly than whole fruit, and the level of sugar that can be obtained from fruit juice is higher than the level found in whole fruit.

For example: 120 calories worth of whole apples contains about 24 grams of sugar, while 120 calories worth of apple juice contains about 30 grams. Also, these calories you drink somehow don’t register as we tend to gulp juice mindlessly.

Compare this to eating an apple.

You spend time slicing, smelling, taking time to truly taste this crunchy apple and be mindful of the various flavors and sensory experiences associated with each bite.

Here’s another example…

Orange juice

One cup raw orange juice contains 26grams carbohydrates of which 21grams is sugar. Which means each cup contains about 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Let’s do a little maths, if a person were to drink one cup orange juice every day, the person would be consuming 1,460 teaspoons of sugar in a year, close to 30,000 calories in a year.

This likely translates to more weight gain and health risks.

Note that we have calculated the sugar content for freshly squeezed oranges. I am sure the processed variety will make your insulin and blood sugar levels skyrocket.

Very little of the good stuff

Many fruit juices that are sold in supermarkets contain only a small percentage of real fruit juice, they contain added sweeteners (sucrose or high fructose corn syrup) and more often than not, made from a fruit juice concentrate.

Another common misconception is that fruit juice concentrate is a great natural sweetener because it is nothing more than fruit concentrated.

Making fruit juice concentrate involves little more than removing the liquid from natural fruit juice.

Hidden Sugars in Fruit Juice_2What the process really concentrates is the sugar and the sweetness of the fruit. When you compare same volumes of freshly squeezed fruit juice and concentrated juice, the concentrate packs lot more sugar and calories than the juice itself, pound for pound.

In a full volume, juice nutrients and sugars are diluted to a fraction of what they are in a sample from concentrate.

And you know when food is unwrapped from its fiber, and fruit juice most certainly is, it’s left without its protective phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and its glycemic index increases exponentially.

More processing exacerbates this process.

This has never been about giving us a natural sweetener

It helps manufacturers save money and space for shipping and increases the shelf life. Fruit juice concentrate is stripped of its vitamins and minerals until it is reduced to sugar syrup and then used just like corn syrup.

The clincher is that the manufacturers are not required to identify as added sugar so you will find it in, “healthy products”, listed as fruit juice concentrate along with, “no added sugar”, claim.

Practical tips

If fruit juice is the only “convenience” choice for replacing a canned soda pop, we are all in favor of freshly prepared fruit juice versus soda pop.

If fruits are juiced together with vegetables, the pulp is retained, and juicing allows a person to increase his or her intake of vegetables substantially, then we support this step too (especially if you use a home juicer that allowed close to 100% retention of the pulp and skin).

However, in most cases, the switch from whole fruit to fruit juice is made only at the expense of wholesome nutrition.

Make sure you read fruit juice labels carefully

Limit your serving to 4 ounces (half a glass). I personally find adding ice cubes to juice dilutes it gradually and doesn’t compromise on flavor.

On the other hand, while juice drinks for children are required to have 10% actual fruit juice, look over the ingredient list – you may be surprised to see exactly where the fruit itself fits in!

If the child tends to exceed the recommended amount, it is wise to dilute the juice.

Frankly, sugar is prevalent in the western food supply and it masquarades under a variety of guises like- barley malt, dehydrated/evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose and many more!

So, cutting back on how much sugar you eat isn’t always going to be easy if you are not aware of how sugar can be disguised on the list of ingredients.

Connect with Expert Harmeet Sehgal.

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