Cutting out sugar is one of the most important steps you can take in improving your nutrition and overall health. Excess hidden sugar intake can have an effect on several systems in the body resulting in high blood pressure, weight gain, inflammation, and diabetes.
The addictive nature of sugar can make cutting down or quitting feel very difficult. You may be thinking, “No big deal, I’m not big on cupcakes or cookies anyways.” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ditching dessert.
Added sugar is hidden in many processed foods, even some marketed as “healthy” or “natural.” Is sugar hiding in some of your favorite foods? Read on to find out.
Yogurt has always been marketed as a healthy snack, and it certainly does have health benefits that make it a good choice. Yogurt is high in probiotics (good for gut health), protein (improves satiety), and calcium (preserves bone density). Of course, these are all great qualities to have in a snack. However, the truth is that many varieties of yogurt contain half the recommended daily amount of sugar in just one serving. Yogurts with fruit-on-the-bottom and low-fat types are the biggest offenders. As discussed previously, all this added hidden sugar can have a negative impact on several systems of the body, including your metabolic health.
Ahh, granola. It’s so versatile! Sprinkle it on your yogurt, add some milk and eat it like cereal, or just pack a bag for your afternoon hike; the options are endless. It’s true, the individual elements of granola – oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits – on their own are very nutritionally beneficial. The only problem is that in the process of making granola, these ingredients are slathered in high-sugar binders like maple syrup or honey. The sweetener adds a delicious flavor and texture but also means the portion size must be very small in order to not blow your daily sugar allotment.
Now, this is where things get weird. When you think about spaghetti or mom’s homemade lasagna, do you think of sugar? Likely not! Tomato-based pasta sauces are usually associated with savory dishes. It’s been said that a little bit of sugar in a homemade pot of pasta sauce can cut the acidity of the tomatoes. This is a great pointer and can help when making your own sauce at home. Making your own sauce gives you control over how much sugar is added to the recipe. However, be wary of store-bought sauces. Check the label to make sure your favorite pasta sauce is not a sugar-bomb in disguise.
You might be surprised to hear that condiments can be one of the biggest offenders when it comes to sneaky sugar. What makes them especially tricky is that the serving size noted on the package is likely half or one-third of the amount people normally use. For example, one serving of ketchup is typically one tablespoon on the package. This serving size can have upwards of four grams of sugar which equates to one teaspoon. Now imagine using two or three servings for your fries. That’s like two to three teaspoons of sugar! Just for the ketchup! Add to your meal some barbecue sauce, sweet relish, and a fat-free salad dressing and you’re looking at spending all of your daily allotment on just this one meal.
This information is probably surprising to hear. Who knew we were so steeped in added hidden sugars? The good thing is that knowledge is power. Being aware of the sneaky sugars added into foods you eat regularly can be the first step in making conscious choices about the foods you eat. Check the package, or do more cooking at home in order to have more control over the amount of sugar you take in. Your blood pressure will thank you.