Sugars occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables, and most prepared and processed foods are made of fruits and vegetables. They are jam-packed with sugars. Manufacturers use added sugars to supplement the other ingredients in processed foods, contributing to the increase in obesity and heart disease in our country.
Why Do They Do It?
Manufacturers claim that by adding sugar to processed food they’re making the food tastier and more appealing. Sugar also adds color to our food. Processed foods that require a brownish color might use caramelized sugar to achieve the effect.
In addition to color and taste, sugar adds texture and makes processed foods bulkier. The added texture is part of what gives you the satisfied feeling when you eat something sweet, like doughnuts or ice cream. Sugars also help in the fermentation of some foods, for example, yogurt, vinegar, wine, and sour cream.
Last, they use sugar to help preserve food and give it a longer shelf life, because it helps prevent food from absorbing the water in the air. This process helps the food keep its color and prevents it from becoming stale.
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What Are the Most Common Added Sugars?
While fructose – the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits – is the most common, you can find many other artificial sugars in processed foods. You are probably familiar with high-fructose corn syrup, but see if you recognize some of the other culprits from the list below.
- Agave syrup
- Brown sugar
- Cane juice or syrup
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Corn sweetener and corn syrup
- Granulated white sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Raw sugar
Surprising Places to Find These Sugars
We expect to find sugar in baked goods and desserts. But some foods have surprisingly large amounts of sugar where you’d never expect it. Head to the kitchen or the condiment aisle at your local grocery store and check out the nutrition labels on ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mustard – even the seemingly healthy salad dressings and pasta sauces are loaded with sugar.
Although foods such as yogurts and nut butters are healthy and even recommended in many health food circles, they can be full of added sugars. However, most grocers offer yogurt with no added sugar and there are some one-ingredient nut butters.
Train yourself to check the ingredient lists on foods while grocery shopping. Ingredient lists are ordered using the weightiest ingredients first and go in descending order, so the higher the item is on the list, the more of it is in the food. Keep an eye out for sugar in its many different forms.
How Can You Avoid These Sugars?
Drastic dietary changes can be challenging for a family. It is actually quite difficult to cut out sugars completely. Try to wean them out of your diet slowly. Start by cutting out foods high in sugars – baked goods, candy, and desserts. Use these foods as special treats and not for daily intake.
Offer your kids heart healthy snacks instead. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are high in protein and offer your little ones healthier options than the processed foods that might be in your pantry.
Encourage your family to avoid sugary drinks. Soda, sports drinks, and some processed fruit juices include a lot of added sugars that you can easily avoid. Water and natural fruit juices are healthy alternatives.
Eventually you and your family will be able to cut out processed foods altogether. Whole, natural foods are much better for your health. You may receive some pushback from your family at first, but these foods will make you all happier, more energetic, and healthier.
You can do something about it! I’ve created a handy pocket guide with 61 different names for sugar on it that you can print and take with you to the store. Simply subscribe below and you’ll be able to instantly download it: