Sugar, the Unknown Danger Hiding in your Food

iStock_000016293067XSmallI don’t know about you, but during my childhood, one of my favorite memories was waking up exceedingly early on Saturday Mornings. I would head downstairs, turn on Saturday Morning Cartoons, and grab a huge bowl of Frosted Flakes, doused with extra sugar from the cabinet. It was a childhood tradition, and you could never have too much sugar.

Today, I shudder to think about how much sugar kids are putting through their bodies whether their parents know about it or not. With the amount of sugar that can be found in every day foods anymore, adding even more is beyond excessive.

I won’t beat around the bush on this one: whether you are a kid watching cartoons early in the morning or just adding some sugar to your morning coffee, high levels of sugar in anyone’s diet is deadly. (When I was proof reading this, a client of mine thought claiming excessive sugar consumption is deadly was going too far, but I disagree. I want to make sure you know the truth about what is in your food, and I have no intention of sugar coating the truth for you… pun intended) Excess consumption of sugar is known to be directly linked to heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, all of which a big portion of our population is struggling with right now.

This problem isn’t just something we can ignore and hope will go away, either. Today, Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US, and it’s only estimated to get worse. The World Health Organization estimates that the total deaths caused by diabetes will increase by 50% in the next 10 years. in 2012, the American Diabetes Association discovered that just under 10% of the US population had a form of diabetes.

You may be thinking “Ok Brian, I get it. Sugar is bad, but I cut soda out of my diet years ago. I don’t have ice cream in the house, and I treat myself to one candy bar when Halloween comes around. I’m doing enough to cut sugar out of my diet, right?

Unfortunately, you likely have more sugar in your diet than you think. Adding a little sugar from the packets on the restaurant table is one thing, but many processed foods include sugar as an additive already. You are likely consuming sugar without even knowing it’s in the food you’re eating. Take a look at some of the worst offenders of sugar smuggling that could be in your refrigerator right now:

Ketchup – Generic brands of ketchup are well known for smuggling sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. One tablespoon of ketchup can have as much a 3.7 grams of it packed inside, which can equate to about a sugar cubes worth of sweetness.

Peanut Butter – Another offender of the high fructose corn syrup smuggling is your typical name brand peanut butter. In two tablespoons, you will find 3 grams of sugar, or just under one sugar cube.

Beef Jerky – How much can you really jam into a piece of dried meat? Turns out quite a lot more than you might have thought. Once piece of jerky, averaged at just under 1 ounce, can have as much as 1.8 grams of sugar. More if it’s a flavored brand of jerky.

Name Brand Iced Tea – Various brands of Iced Tea try to frame themselves as a healthier alternative to soda or other sugary drinks. But one 24 ounce can of generic Iced Tea can hold as much as 72 grams of sugar! That’s 18 cubes of sugar packed into a single drink.

Name Brand Light Yogurt – Even yogurt, which is labelled as a healthy way to start the day and snack on, contains up to 14 grams of sugar. Non “light” versions of the same yogurt can have even more, up to 27 grams.

Unsweetened Diet Cereal – This one almost makes me laugh. After all, unsweetened diet cereal appears to be one of the blandest things you can include in your diet, right? It looks as simple as baked corn flakes! How can they possibly cram sugar into that? Before you grab the non-frosted corn flakes off the store shelves, be sure to take a look at the nutritional facts. A typical generic brand of dietary cereal will have anywhere between 3 to 4 grams of sugar per cup. Just because it’s not labelled as “frosted” doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Unfortunately, added sugar is found in almost all packaged foods. I have a difficult time going into a local grocery store and finding foods that haven’t had sugar added for flavor. But there are ways of checking if sugar has been added, and even foods that don’t have any additives. This Thursday, check back in and I’ll tell you what to look for and how to avoid the additive sugars you can live without.

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