Label fables part I I – Sugar

You spot a neatly packaged product in the grocery store isle and pick it up. The front of the package reads : “Whole grains” and maybe even “organic”. You immediately want to buy it. But wait, the voice in your head urges you to read the ingredients label, so you turn it around and read the ingredients. Despite being short on time, you read all the ingredients. Sugar doesn’t appear until the third line and you promptly put the item in your cart, satisfied that you made a healthy choice.

Or did you?

You diligently read the ingredients – but like most people, don’t really know what many of those names mean. While you were on the look out for “sugar”, and “high fructose corn syrup”, you might have missed several other ingredients that food processors cleverly put on the label in order to hide the actual amount of sugar. Since ingredients are put in descending order by weight, sugars are listed separately and in smaller amounts, making it much more difficult (for the consumer) to determine the amount of added sugar in a processed product.

Like the many different names of MSG in my last post, sugar has many different names too. Some are easy to spot while some might not be as easy.

  1. Names ending in ‘ose’ – Sucrose, Maltose, Fructose, Dextrose, Glucose, Galactose, Glucose solids, Lactose, crystalline fructose, anhydrous dextrose.
  2. Syrup – Corn syrup, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Malt syrup, Golden syrup, sorghum syrup, maple syrup, rice syrup, agave syrup, cane syrup, date syrup, refiner’s syrup, molasses syrup, oat syrup (avena sativa), rice bran syrup, syrup, tapioca syrup, barley malt syrup, pan cake syrup
  3. Sugars – beet sugar, buttered sugar, brown sugar, castor sugar, cane sugar, golden sugar, coconut sugar, cane sugar, invert sugar, raw sugar, organic raw sugar, muscovado sugar, raspadura sugar, confectioner’s sugar, palm sugar, grape sugar, demerara sugar, turbinado sugar
  4. Solids – corn syrup solids, glucose solids,
  5. Nectars – Agave nectar, ‘any fruit’ nectar
  6. Concentrate – Any ‘fruit juice’ concentrate, particularly grape, apple and pear.
  7. Crystals – Cane crystals, cystalline fructose, floride crystals cane juice crystals,
  8. Other names – Evaporated cane juice. Blackstrap molasses, caramel, diatase, treacle, barley malt, dextran, ethyl maltol, panocha, honey, molasses, diastatic malt.

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Our metabolism does not differentiate between the different varieties of added sugars so it’s important to be aware of all the sources of added sugars (whatever their names may be).

Food labeling laws don’t require processed food companies to separate naturally occurring sugars (which are OK) from added sugars (which should be avoided). Naturally occurring sugar is alright only if consumed in its whole food form, such as from a fruit (not fruit juice) or from unsweetened yogurt, because fibre and other essential micronutrients are also a part of the whole food and the natural sugars in it aren’t as quickly absorbed by the body. Whenever sugar is processed and isolated and added separately to make food sweeter, that added sugar is stripped of the natural fibre and micronutrients, making it a source of empty calories.

Bottom line – if you are eating whole foods in their natural, unprocessed form, do not worry about the natural sugars. However, if you are eating primarily processed food, it is important to keep track of both natural as well as added sugars (with their many different names and forms).

An important point to remember when reading nutrition labels:
4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon

 

Fatty liver and gallstones

One fine night in January 2015 my husband woke me up suddenly in the middle of the night, literally whining with pain in his abdomen. I’d never seen him in so much pain and started panicking big time. A trip to the ER revealed a fatty liver and stones in the gall bladder after a series of tests (mainly liver profile) and an Ultrasound.

Fatty liver and gall stones at 30 years of age is terrible. In the last year and a half since we moved to Dubai, my husband had gained 25 lbs (somehow everyone puts on weight in Dubai!!). But was a weight gain of 25 lbs sufficient to cause gall stones and a fatty liver? Apparently, because most of that weight gain was from refined carbs and sugary junk. Our Doc. asked my husband to go on a strict diet and exercise to lose weight. Needless to say, I was super worried. I partly blamed myself because I had gotten so busy with my work life that I barely cooked; most often we’d end up ordering in. Sure, hubby could have cooked as well. He usually came home earlier than I did but he doesn’t like to cook so rarely did. And when I came home from work dog tired, of course I didn’t have the energy to put together a decent meal. I was tired not from my work but due to my long commute but anyway.. bottom line is we had both of us since the last year and a half developed extremely unhealthy eating habits. While I put on quite a few pounds myself, it wasn’t as drastic as my husband. He ate chips, pastries, biscuits and of course pizzas, burgers, french fries, anything he could get his hands on.

So I started researching how to deal with a fatty liver and dug up the basics – avoiding refined carbs and sugar, eating lots of fruits and veggies and burning calories from exercise. Within a couple of months most of the weight was lost and the symptoms disappeared.  Fast forward 11 months. We’re now in Toronto and I’ve enrolled in a course in Natural Nutrition. I’ve made a conscious decision to make a career change towards health and nutrition because not only do I want to make healthier choices for my family, I want to share that knowledge with others. I’m thoroughly enjoying the course and have started this blog to share bytes of my learning.

Thank you for visiting 🙂