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Beware of Hidden Sugar in Foods

hidden sugar in foods
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Hidden sugar. Beware!

You may have come across a study out of UCSF about sugar — decreasing added sugar in kids diets for just 10 days caused significant decreases in bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. You might be thinking that eliminating added sugar from your diet or your families is just too tall an order, so why bother? Any of that sound familiar?

This isn’t an “all or nothing” game — a decrease in sugar is progress. Here are a few tips from us to help you get started.

1. Check the label of “low-fat” and “fat free” products.
Low-fat cheese, yogurt, and salad dressings are all over the grocery store shelves. In many cases, the manufacturers have added in sugar to replace the fat and keep the product tasting good. So make sure you know what you’re buying; don’t assume that something low fat or fat free is healthy.

2. Know the aliases that sugar goes by.
Glucose, sucrose, galactose, fructose, barley malt, rice syrup, maltose, muscovado, dextrose, malt syrup… Have you seen these on labels? Yep, they’re sugar. Here are some names of hidden sugar in foods.

3. Skip the sugar where it’s unnecessary.
While we could argue that all added sugar is unnecessary, what we’re talking about here is the products that contain sugar but the “no-added sugar” variety is just as good. Products like peanut butter and applesauce are good examples of foods that don’t need additional sugar to taste great.

4. Watch out for sauces.
Barbecue sauce, marinara, and other pre-prepared sauces are in many cases packed with added sugar. Check the label, and see what you find. The best option is to make them from scratch.

The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day — that’s almost half a cup! Try our tricks for decreasing the total amount, if the thought of going cold turkey makes you squeamish.

Sources: UCSF, Harvard School of Public Health, American Diabetes Association

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