Disclaimer : I don’t own this article. It has been taken from here, another blog I follow regularly for healthy recipes.
Sugar is a sneaky little ingredient that’s in a considerable amount of foods in many forms. Despite its delicious and innocent taste, sugar has addictive properties and is linked to a variety of preventable health conditions. Although it’s easy to label all sugar as “bad”, there are types that, when eaten in moderation, may have nutritional benefits.
Types of Sugars
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate found in both food and beverages. Once eaten, sugar is broken down into glucose which is ultimately used for energy. Let’s break it down some more with the most common types & examples:
- Monosaccharides » glucose, galactose, fructose
- Disaccharides » sucrose, lactose, maltose
- Oligosaccharides » maltodextrin, raffinose
- Polyols (sugar alcohols) » sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
Natural vs. Added Sugars
These are naturally occurring in foods (i.e. not added). Carbohydrates (simple and complex) are naturally occurring in some shape or form in practically all whole fruits, vegetables, dairy and grain products.
- Fruit: Primarily contains fructose
- Potatoes and yams: Contain starch which are made up of glucose molecules
- Cow’s milk: Primarily contains lactose
Added Sugars :
These not only add sweetness to foods, but manufacturers add them into products to serve various other functions : Preservation, Texture and Mouthfeel, Volume, Rich color resulting from caramelisation.
They can be found in:
- Soda/Pop Drikns
- Sweetened coffee or tree drinks
- Energy or sports drinks
- Fruit juices
- Many store bought cereals, salad dressings, soups
- Dairy based desserts such as ice cream, pudding, etc.
- Candies such as gummies or halloween candy
- Commercially baked goods such as cookies, muffins, cakes etc.
What about coconut sugar? Coconut sugar, while it may have a small trace amount of minerals, is nutritionally identical to white granulated sugar and is best consumed in the same level of moderation
Effects of Excess Added Sugars
- Type 2 diabetes: has been linked to the habitual consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Weight gain: is connected to excessive intake of sugar. Having excess weight or obesity increases the risk for chronic illnesses such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and various forms of cancers.
- Fatigue: simple sugars can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, which can come crashing back down making you feel tired and groggy. Complex sugars and carbohydrates break down slower, keeping the blood sugar more stable.
- Cavities: there is a strong association between sugar-sweetened beverages and dental cavities in children though adults can get cavities just as easily.
Liquid Sweeteners :
- Maple Syrup
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Agave Syrup
- Corn Syrup
Ultimately these liquid sweeteners are sugars, too. They contain about the same amount of calories as white sugar and are generally metabolized in the same way. Some have trace minerals in very small amounts. We still love to use these sweeteners for their wonderful flavours and consistencies in particular recipes; however, they should still be consumed in moderation.
- Acesulfame potassium
- Cyclamate (Sweet’n Low)
- Saccharin (Sweet’n Low)
- Stevia/Steviol (Truvia)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
These sugar substitutes are zero- or low- calorie alternatives to the sugar options mentioned above. Because of this, companies market their products as “sugar-free”, “diet” or “no calories”. They are found in many diabetic products because they have little or no effect on blood sugar levels. Some can be made from natural leaf extracts, and some are manufactured. Most artificial sweeteners are also remarkably sweeter when compared to table sugar, meaning smaller amounts can be used to create the same sweetness level.
Considerations with artificial sweeteners
a. conflicting evidence
According to the most recent meta-analysis, artificial sweeteners have not been linked to health outcomes such as diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers or dental health. However, according to other analyses, they have been associated with increased BMI and other complications. In short, there are biases and limitations to the studies conducted so far and more research is needed.
b. compensating for other sugary foods
In our experience, when people consciously know they are having artificial sweeteners with no calories, they mentally feel they can compensate with something that does have sugar later on. This is similar to exercising and then treating yourself with an indulgent food as a result.
c. potential GI intolerances
Some artificial sweeteners include sugar alcohols, which if consumed in large amounts (say, in a beverage) can have a laxative effect.
d. can it really trick the brain?
Consuming artificial sweeteners lights up similar regions of the brain in terms of satisfaction as with all other types of sugar. Therefore, artificial sweeteners may not actually help curb sugar cravings from the root because we still tend to crave something sweet. In fact, one study suggests that we use sweet taste to predict the calories in a particular food. And when our bodies receive these non caloric sweeteners instead, it realizes the discrepancy and continues to crave, and can potentially eat even more.
Bottom line: we recommend whole food sources above processed foods including added sugars or artificial sweeteners. There is not enough conclusive evidence to lean one way or the other in terms of long term health effects. Therefore, if you enjoy the flavour and find you do not compensate for sugar elsewhere in your diet, including artificial sweeteners is likely safe include in small amounts.
Spotting Hidden Sugars in the Ingredient List
When it comes to the ingredient list of foods, only added sugars are listed. Granulated sugar is easy to spot in the ingredient list. But, food manufacturers can still add sugar in many other sneaky ways. Here are some more common types of sugar that can be added:
- Evaporated cane juice
- Dextrose or dextrin
- Cane Sugar
- Invert Sugar
- Liquid Sweeteners (mentioned above)
Hint: any ingredient that ends in ‘ose’ or has ‘syrup’ in the title is likely a source of added sugar