I’ve talked a lot about how sugar leads to inflammation and creates an imbalance in gut bacteria that cause us all sorts of problems – gas, bloating, constipation, brain fog, skin disruptions, cravings, depression, and more. So here’s a little insight into hidden sugars that may surprise you and what to look for when shopping.
If you are trying to cut back on added sugar, it may require a little savvy shopping. That’s because it is hiding in all sorts of packaged goods everything from soup to spaghetti sauce under names like “brown rice syrup” and “evaporated cane juice.” But with some basic knowledge of food label lingo, you can start picking out those sneaky ingredients—and slashing your daily intake.
Keep in mind, even seemingly healthy or natural sugars are still sugar! Here are a few examples:
Coconut sugar and date sugar
These terms often pop up on the labels on natural foods. Coconut sugar is made from sap extracted from the buds of coconut palm plants. And date sugar is typically made simply from dried, ground dates. But don’t be fooled: While a whole food source may seem like a much more nutritious option, the amount of nutrients in a teaspoon of any type of sugar is generally minimal at best.
Brown rice syrup—and any other kind of syrup
Most of us know that high-fructose corn syrup is to be avoided but it isn’t the only syrup to watch out for. Syrup can be made from brown rice or rice, barley, sorghum, and maple. The process to make these different syrups varies. Maple syrup is made from boiling the sap from maple trees. Brown rice syrup, on the other hand, is made from cooking brown rice with enzymes that break down the starch; the liquid is then strained to produce syrup. Regardless of how they’re made, however, all syrups count as added sugar. That said, I am partial to maple syrup. One tablespoon satisfies about 25% of your daily-recommended intake of manganese, a mineral that helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health.
Evaporated cane juice
Though it sounds healthy, evaporated cane juice shares similarities with white sugar. Evaporated cane juice is made by taking the liquid “juice” from a sugarcane plant, drying it, then separating the sweet crystals from the sticky molasses. White sugar is just evaporated cane juice that’s been further processed to remove its brown color.
Because of its dark color and full-bodied flavor, molasses often shows up in cereals and baked goods. This thick syrup is a byproduct of processing sugarcane and sugar beets. It’s what’s left over after the sugar has crystallized.
You might see “blackstrap molasses” on the labels of some healthy-looking foods. This is the syrup that remains after the maximum amount of liquid has been removed, and it actually does provide some nutrients: One teaspoon contains about 6% of the Daily Value for iron and calcium. And it packs more antioxidants than any other sweetener, according to research from Virginia Tech.
From now on, whenever you pick up a packaged product, turn it over and scan the label for any of the code words below. While some of the sweeteners are slightly better for you than others, like molasses, at the end of the day, they all count as added sugar.
Watch out for words ending in –ose or –ol
The Latin suffix –ose is used in biochemistry to name sugars. There are many that appear on food labels: Think glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, dextrose, galactose, sucralose, and maltose. Some of these sugars are found naturally in whole foods, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk. But be aware: When any of these -ose terms are listed in a product’s ingredients, it’s just another word for “added sugar.” Same goes for ingredients ending in “-ol” (sorbitol, inversol, carbitol), they are also hiding as sugar.
Here is a fairly comprehensive list of sugar and its derivatives found on ingredient labels are:
Barley malt syrup
Brown rice syrup
Cane juice crystals
Coconut palm sugar
Concentrated fruit juice
Corn syrup solids
Dehydrated cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fruit juice concentrate
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
Malted barley nectar
If all this detective work seems like a pain, here’s some good news: The FDA has mandated that by January 2020, all food manufacturers are required to list the amount of added sugar in grams and as a percent of Daily Value right on the label. Most products are already complying with this mandate. Hopefully this will help you make informed choices, no hunting and decoding necessary. Yet, it is still good to be an informed consumer!
If you want to change your eating habits and struggle sticking with it – just know that is exactly what I help women do! Schedule a free call today and let’s talk about how health coaching can support your efforts to make lasting change!