Headlines follow one another telling us that too much sugar is not good for your health. And when it comes to excessive sugar consumption, it’s usually the added sugar that’s to blame. After all, natural sugars, those found in whole, unprocessed foods, such as fructose from fruit or lactose from dairy products, provide the body with the energy it needs in appropriate amounts, and they are often associated with nutrients such as fiber or protein. Added sugars, on the other hand, are digested quickly and cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, creating a cascade of metabolically damaging reactions. High intakes of added sugars can lead to fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and systemic inflammation. They are often linked to overweight and obesity. »
Added sugars shouldn’t contribute more than 10% of daily calories, research shows that 3 out of 4 people eat more than that.
If you don’t add sugar to your foods, you may think you have nothing to worry about, but several foods that don’t fall into the dessert category can be surprisingly high in added sugars. Processed foods, many of which are not even sweet, account for 90% of all added sugars people consume, according to a 2016 study published in BMJ Journal.
1 flavored yogurt
Shouldn’t yogurt be on the right list? Well, it does, but it depends on the type of yogurt you buy. For example, fruit-based varieties often have more added sugar than fruit. Read the ingredients. If sugar is among the first three ingredients, leave the item on the shelf. And know that sugar can go by more than 60 names, including cane juice and corn syrup, on ingredient lists. Or opt for plain yogurt to start and add your own ingredients. Cinnamon, fresh fruit, pureed berries, unsweetened applesauce, roasted and unsalted nuts and seeds are all great additions to provide flavor without added sugars.
2 canned soup
You’ve heard that canned soups are high in sodium. But did you know that it can also be filled with this sweet product? Tomato-based soups are generally the highest in sugar. Some condensed soups contain up to 15 grams (g) of sugar per 1.5 cups. Sugar reduces the acidity of tomatoes to balance the taste, so check soup labels carefully before buying, especially when it comes to tomato-based varieties.
3 Dressing for salad
Dressing is one of the main ways a seemingly healthy salad can instantly go from good choice to diet disaster. But it’s not just because of the fats salad dressing tends to contain. Some salad dressings contain up to 6g of sugar per serving. And it turns out that the low-fat, fat-free versions tend to be the highest in added sugars. When manufacturers remove fat from a product, they often add more sugar to replace flavor.
Your best option? Try using hummus, tzatziki, citrus juices, vinegar, and even pureed berries to dress your salads in an easy and healthy way.
4 Tomato sauce
Canned tomato sauces are convenient but can be sneaky sources of sugar, often added to tone down the sour taste of tomatoes and keep canned sauces fresh longer. Again, it is not the natural sugars that are in question, but glucose syrup and other added sugars. And some potted sauces contain up to 4g in half a cup. If you’re having trouble finding low-sugar or no-sugar-added sauces, try a can of plain diced tomatoes instead. Just drain the juices, puree them and add your own spices for a quick sugar-free sauce. You might end up creating a sauce that you love more than anything you can find on the shelves.
5 Fruit juices
Fruit juices are definitely not all created equal. Some varieties of fruit juice, for example, contain only pure orange juice. Other drinks labeled as fruit juice are loaded with added sugars and other ingredients. Check product labels and look for juices that only list fruit juice in the ingredient list or say “100% juice” or “no added sugar” somewhere on the label. Or, better yet, opt for the whole fruit instead. Bonus: Research has shown that choosing whole fruits like apples and grapes over their juice equivalents can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
6 cereal and snack bars
Did you eat a candy bar for your breakfast? Cereal bars and snacks often seem much healthier than they actually are. Some brands contain up to 11g of sugar per bar, and you may find white flour in the ingredient list. Avoid bars with sugar in the first three ingredients. There are some that contain very little, if any, added sugar. You can also consider snacking on a handful of whole nuts and whole or unsweetened dried fruits instead. (We will come back to dried fruits later).
7 Dried fruits
Dried fruits tend to look much healthier than they are. A single handful of dried cranberries, for example, can contain up to 27 g of added sugar, in addition to the sugars naturally present in the fruit. Sugar levels tend to be higher in dried fruits which are naturally tart. Look for options that only list fruit as an ingredient and no added sugar. These products usually carry the statement “no added sugar” on the front.