That name says it all. It is a title of a book published way back in hippy days that seems to be now out of print. It was the first expose of sugar to reach a popular audience. A Silent Spring for people who eat food. It was the beginning of America’s questioning of the food industry (Big Food). Beginnings of a popular skepticism of corporate capitalism. People versus Big Business. Now we know we can’t trust ’em!
Amid intense lobbying by Big Food (notably Big Meat) the Feds just published new U.S. federal dietary guidelines 2015-2020) that point out sugar as being one of the biggest problems in the American diet. It gets into fairly good detail about sugar in the report, pointing out that sugar comes in many different flavors but in the end it is all just sugar. By any other name sugar is still sugar!
Added sugars include syrups and other caloric sweeteners. When sugars are added to foods and beverages to sweeten them, they add calories without contributing essential nutrients. Consumption of added sugars can make it difficult for individuals to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars. Specific examples of added sugars that can be listed as an ingredient include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, and turbinado sugar. . . Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per day.
Added sugar is just what it sounds like. Many unprocessed foods like produce and dairy products naturally contain sugar in some form. Prepared and processed foods like cookies brownies and cakes have added sugar to make them what they are, dessert, or snack. That makes sense, it’s logical and you expect the added sugar to be there.
The real huge problem, to me, is finding added sugar in food where you are not expecting it. For example, a savory entree that contains already inherently sweet ingredients, like a sweet potato dish, may include added sugars. Jarred tomato sauce almost always has added sugar even though tomatoes (actually fruits not vegetables) are naturally very sweet. Food bars at stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods are filled with pans of entrees and savory dishes that contain added sugar. Why? Because humans love sugar! Sugar, like butter, can make almost anything taste good. See where I am going with this?
Once you stop eating processed, addictive food and start eating your own cooking, your taste buds will come back to life and the processed stuff won’t taste so good to you. For me, it’s taken time, but; for example, I really don’t like potato chips anymore. That was a hard food addiction to let go of. But now that I’ve become a better cook, I prefer my own cooking. Haha whodufthought!
FRESH, PREPARED, OR PROCESSED
The main difference between prepared food and processed food seems to be degrees of remove from what we think of as home cooking.
SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR
Sugar, fructose, glucose, sucrose, it’s all sugar. If you want to read some more bad stuff about sugar you could check out the journal Natures 2012 article called The Toxic Truth about Sugar, co-authored by Laura Schmidt, Claire Brindis, and Robert Lustig. The article says that sugar is an overlooked and ignored toxic food additive killing people all around the world. That it causes a lot of health problems most seriously heart disease and stroke, but it also seems to be a main cause of the obesity epidemic gripping America as well as other places in the world that have turned to American style food. The article also explains that as food manufacturers removed fat out of their products in response to the belief that people were eating too much fat; they replaced the fat with sugar!
Over the past 50 years, consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide.
The authors are calling for the dangers of sugar to be taken as seriously as the dangers of alcohol and tobacco. It’s all in the dose after all, and too much sugar it turns out, has devastating personal and public health effects, much like alcohol and tobacco. I would link you to the Nature website but you have to be a member to read the article online. However, here is a video all about it by Robert Lustig!
But this post is not a diatribe about how bad sugar is for your health, it’s really just an attempt to cut through the weird ideas people have about sugar. A lot of people seem to think that if there is no refined ‘sugar’ in the food than there is no sugar in the food. That’s crazy but I hear it over and over, even on the Food Network.
Example: unnamed cooking show host claims that it’s so great that her dish of strawberries and cream had no sugar in it! Strawberries are mostly sugar and water, and the cream is naturally sweet, but the chef added Agave Syrup to it, just a tablespoon haha. Agave syrup is just another form of sugar syrup. Sugar syrup. From whatever plant it came from, it doesn’t matter!! They were so pleased with themselves that they had made the desert with no sugar. Sugar is sugar, is sugar, is sugar.
You have to check the ingredients lists of everything you buy. It is really time consuming and frustrating I know. Big Food will keep selling unhealthy food to you if you keep buying it from them!
Other Names for Sugar on Ingredient Labels
- Agave nectar
- Barley malt syrup
- Beet sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Cane crystals/Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Coconut sugar/coconut palm sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup/corn syrup solids
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Palm sugar
- Raw sugar
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum/sorghum syrup
- Turbinado sugar
Thanks for this list from Laura Olsen
By the way, ingredient lists have to name the ingredients with the most prevalent one first, and so on. That starts to give you an idea right away about what you are really buying. Like chocolate syrup where the first item on the ingredient list is corn syrup. Watch out!
Whole Foods Disappoints
As for me, I usually shop for food at Whole Foods. Here in the Boston area, there used to be a store called Bread and Circus. Bread and Circus didn’t stock food with refined sugar in it. Once Whole Foods (we used to like to call it Whole Paycheck) took over Bread and Circus, there was plenty of added, refined and processed sugar to be found. I have to check every label of every prepared food product that I buy at Whole Foods (and at more typical grocery stores) to see if there is added sugar.
Cynical Observation: Typical grocery stores don’t seem to carry products that don’t have added sugar (or; incidentally, without hydrogenated oil.)
Case in point, I went over to Shaw’s and bought some mayonnaise. The mayonnaise seemed extra healthy because it contained a small percentage of olive oil. I brought it home and used it to make tuna salad. It was really horrible because there was so much sugar in the mayonnaise it ruined my tuna salad sandwich. Yuck! Surprisingly I didn’t even think to check for added sugar.
Next surprise was about tonic water. I bought some vodka to test out some homemade green cleaning formulas. Well, the vodka was just sitting there. I only used a little in my cleaning recipes so I thought to buy some tonic water and make vodka tonics. What fun! Last night I did just that. But I discovered that the tonic water had so much corn syrup in it I thought I was drinking soda. Bah!
I wish everybody would read the labels better and demand food that has no un-necessary added sugar. But don’t get me wrong. I love sweet stuff. It makes me feel happy and good, unless I overindulge at which point I get dizzy and nauseated. I am only human so sugar will always be a temptation for me!