An occasional dessert is a decadent way to satisfy a sweet tooth, but even some so-called healthy foods contain hidden sugars. Sucrose, or table sugar, acts as a flavoring and a preservative in a wide variety of foods. It’s easy to spot these sneaky, sugar-filled foods just by reading the nutrition label.
Extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets, sucrose is just one source of added sugar in your diet. Sucrose comes in many forms, including brown sugar, raw sugar, granulated sugar and confectioner's sugar. Sugar preserves food and adds flavor, texture and bulk. A diet high in sugar, however, increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, dental problems and weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends women consume fewer than 100 calories a day from added sugar. The average American consumes approximately 355 calories from sugar a day.
Baked goods such as breakfast breads, muffins, pastries and desserts are a major source of sucrose in the diet. Save calories on homemade treats by cutting the sugar in your recipes by at least one third. Also be skeptical of low-fat and reduced-fat treats. Many of these foods add extra sugar to make up for the lack of fat. The grams of sugar are available on the nutrition label, so do a side-by-side comparison in the grocery store to confirm the low-fat treat is really healthier.
Many foods contain hidden sugars. Certain cereals, salad dressings, condiments and sauces may not taste sweet, but their ingredient list tells a different story. Yogurt is a healthy snack, but some flavored varieties contain as much sugar as candy. Fruit has natural sweetness, yet dried fruit manufacturers often add sugar for flavor. Spot hidden sugars in foods by reading the ingredient list. Ingredients appear by weight. If sucrose or other forms of sugar appear within the first few ingredients, the food has a high-sugar content.
Many sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks and iced teas are little more than sugared water. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, which equals 140 calories. Simply deleting one can of regular soda out of your diet for one year will cut 3,285 teaspoons of added sugar and over 51,100 extra calories out of your diet.
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.