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I have a regular battle of words with clients in my clinic. When we start talking about reducing sugar they will tell me they don’t eat it – they don’t put sugar into their tea or coffee, they don’t eat cakes or confectionery or consume soft drinks. Then, I ask them to describe their diet in detail and it’s inevitably jam-packed with foods that break down into sugar, or contain hidden sugars, and often low in foods that will slow down the blood glucose spike that follows the intake, such as vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. Oh, those terrible hidden sugar in foods!
What people don’t realize is that any carbohydrate-based food, like bread, rice, pasta, crisps and cereal once it is broken down in the body, ends up as glucose sugar and has the ability to contribute to rises in blood sugar, stored energy as fat, energy slumps, mood instability and inflammation.
Don’t believe me? Take this simple test. Take a piece of plain “whole wheat bread” and chew it well – say for around 30 seconds to a minute. Did it turn sweet in your mouth? That’s because the digestive enzymes in your mouth have begun to act on the starchy carbohydrate, to turn it into its largest constituent– sugar.
Fruit juice contains nearly as much sugar as soda. Think about it, fruit contains large amounts of sugar and when you drink an 8-ounce glass of fruit juice you are consuming the juice and sugar of approximately four pieces of that fruit in a matter of seconds, causing blood glucose levels to soar rapidly.
Fruit juice is a problem also because the main sugar is fructose. Our bodies aren’t designed to deal with fructose in large quantities and it is processed almost exclusively in the liver where it is converted to fat.
A small amount of homemade organic popcorn is ok as a snack; however, the amount of popcorn consumed when we pop a whole bag is way too much. The carbohydrate content of microwave popcorn breaks down directly into sugar leading to huge blood sugar spikes. It’s also filled with questionable ingredients that are detrimental to our health and the bags are coated with non-stick perfluorochemicals, which have been linked to cancer.
Fat-free and low-fat milk gained in popularity beginning in the 1960s because of the move against saturated fats; but a 2016 study documented in The American Journal of Nutrition stipulates that full-fat dairy is a much healthier option. Cup for cup, whole fat milk contains less sugar than low-fat milk or skim. The extra sugar in low fat or fat-free dairy products are potent to risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Aside from that, eating full-fat diary helps people feel fuller for longer. Shocking isn’t it to imagine fat-free milk would be a source of hidden sugar in foods!
Refined cereals and grains such as corn, wheat and rice and the products manufactured from them have become staples in the standard American diet. They are however, stripped of most nutrients and fiber to improve their shelf life and then, artificial sugars are added back to bring back taste. They break down rapidly into sugar that leads to increased risk of inflammatory diseases, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. In fact, refined cereals would probably be the biggest culprits today of foods with hidden sugar.
Granola or cereal bars are loaded with sugars – if you read the label carefully you will often find that a single cereal bar can have more sugar than a can of soda! They also have harmful ingredients like canola oil and that ubiquitous villain, high fructose corn syrup.
Agave nectar is on almost every health food shelf in America. Just remember that Agave nectar has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener in the US, so it’s anything but healthy. Remember, fructose is hard on the liver and ends up as stored fat. A better option to add a little sweetness is raw honey or green stevia.
Sugars, especially the hidden ones, can be extremely addictive and difficult to kick out of your life. You need a clear, 360-degree plan, but it can be done. Here’s to your fantastic health.