Love sweets? Or maybe you don’t think you have added sugars in your diet? Think again! Besides obvious sources of added sugar like sweets, pastries, cookies, pop, specialty coffee drinks, and cocktails, unfortunately sugar can be hidden from plain view in “healthy” products such as nonfat yogurt, pasta sauce, breakfast bars and cereals, smoothies and juices.
Actually many “health foods” on the market today are very high in added sugars.
How? Simply because sugar has so many names and the manufacturing companies use this trick to their advantage. The following list includes different names for sugar which you should watch out for when reading the ingredients label. Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount (so if it's early on in the ingredients list you know you’re eating mainly sugar).
While in the last few decades dietary fat was the main enemy and considered the “killer”, it is now obvious that added sugars are far worse. Actually, most low fat products marketed as healthy alternatives are full of added sugars and refined starches. Taking out fat from a natural product leaves is tasteless and ruins texture thus this “gap” is now filled with processed sugars and starches to help improve product taste. So, choose whole foods over low fat to avoid compensating the fat with added sugars.
Let's look deeper into what happens when you eat a high sugar food. Eating foods with added sugars or eating simple carbohydrates like white rice, refined white noodles, pasta, baked goods causes blood sugar levels to spike. Due to the corrosive nature of sugar in the blood the body spits out loads of insulin (metabolic hormone) which tells your cells to use the blood sugar for energy. Cells quickly uptake sugar from the blood so blood sugar levels drop. Now, this low blood sugar is causing you to feel excessive hunger, cravings for carbohydrates → so you splurge again, spike your blood sugar and the insulin response is repeated numerous times in the day. This is called the glycemic response. Over time,with this cycle repeated over and over, cells can become insensitive to insulin, resulting in an inability to clear high blood sugars (ie:type 2 Diabetes).
Negative effects of sugar are well known. Accelerated ageing, bad skin, excess weight, heart disease diabetes, and even cancer - all outcomes of excess added sugar. One of the main concerns around added sugars in today's diet it its ill effect on metabolic health. Most of the added sugars in processed food are highly made up of fructose which is the main problem. Fructose can only be processed or metabolized by the liver, which turns it into fat cells. This worst type of fat builds up in the liver and around organs, leading to insulin resistance, heart disease, inflammation and an array of metabolic disturbances. Thats right, even if you're not overweight you can have high visceral fat (organ fat) and a fatty liver - making you unhealthy from within!
What about fruit? Natural sugars from whole fresh fruit are not a concern as they come within a high fibre, water and vitamin filled “package” which does not result in the same insulin response as from added sugar in processed food. For example an orange and a tim bit have a similar amount of natural or added sugars. But generally you only eat one orange, not 5 or even 10, which is often the case with Tim Bits. The water and fibre in whole fruit fills you up and the hunger is satisfied, so the insulin response after eating whole fruits versus processed foods is incomparably small.
So what’s the final take home message? Choose whole unrefined foods! And if you have to buy something in a package, read the label. If the first 3 ingredients contain refined/enriched flour, some type of sugar, or refined oil (like hydrogenated soybean or palm oil) this product is not a good choice.