A rose by many names – You probably recognize that expression very well!
Sugar is definitely something we have held far too dear for far too long, and is part of the answer to why we have this global metabolic disaster today.
Sugar has proven to be linked to both physical and mental health – and not in a positive way.
In today’s society, we use the swet taste that sugar brings as a reward to a very large extent – in the coffee room, in the friday evening snack, saturday candy – or as soon as we have reason to celebrate – and we can find a lot to celebrate to be able to “treat” ourselves with that little extra.
If you think it’s time to adress this behavior and reduce your sweet intake – how do you then find and remove it all?
The visible sugar is easy to handle – We all know that softdrinks, candy, cakes and buns contain a lot of sugar. And this is basically the normal white sugar – sucrose.
This is either extracted from sugar canes or the sugar beet. This sugar is the 2nd most natural sugar we have, right behind honey.
BUT there are a lot of other sweeteners that have similar sweet effect as sugar (or worse).
These sweeteners go by many other names and are not classified as sugar in the classic sense.
Today there are no numbers (at least in sweden) that tell the truth about how much sweet we intake through what we eat and drink.
The Swedish National Food Administration does not gather its own statistics and relies on the figures from the Swedish Board of Agriculture.
The Swedish Board of Agriculture in turn focuses on what comes from agriculture and registers production and import / export of the white sugar, which of course does not say anything about what we get through food and softdrinks.
With this type of reporting, the National Food Administration has long been able to keep us “safe” stating the fact that our sugar consumption has been stable for many years. All in all nothing to worry about – or?
Where do we find this invisible – unreported – sweet taste? Basically in all low fat, no-fat ts, processed and ultraprocessed products you can buy. Just turn the products over and read the ingredients list. The sweet taste occurs hidden under names like:
- Glucose syrup
- Fructose syrup
- Invert sugar
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Palm sugar
- Milk sugar
- Liquid honey
- Potato flour, flakes, starch,
- Corn flour, starch,
- Maple syrup
- Agave syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Modified starch
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Other completely artificial sweeteners that are said not to raise blood sugar, but which are completely unnatural to us are:
- Xylitol (birch sugar)
- Sugar alcohols
- Stevia (glycosides)
Many ingredients lists can have a number of all these types of sugars and sweeteners in different places.
Many are significantly sweeter than the ordinary white sugar and therefore in terms of volume do not need to be added in equal amounts. This is how the ingredients list works – Declaration of the contents of the product stated in descending order. That is, what comes first is what is most of the product.
Let’s take an example of a light product – A regular flavored yogurt with blueberries and vanilla.
Contents: Yogurt, sugar, blueberries, water, cornstarch, natural vanilla aroma, thickener
Of 100g of finished product, 10g is sugar. It is as much sugar as you have in a soft drink.
The sugar is distributed as 6.5% added sugar and 3.5% sugar from blueberries. In addition, we have cornstarch which also provides a sweet taste and becomes glucose once it has been digested.
Another example could be a readymade pesto –
Ingredients: Sunflower oil, Basil (31%), potato flakes, olive oil, pecorino cheese, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, sea salt, garlic, lactose, sugar, natural aromas, acidity regulators (E330)
Things that are digested and broken down to deliver glucose are potato flakes, lactose and sugar. That way the sweet taste can be distributed in 3 entries with the potatoes placing 3rd in the ingredients list. A real homemade pesto is made from olive oil, basil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic. You will not find a lot of sugar in that.
Or for example Ketchup – I found one with declared less sugar and salt
Ingredients: tomato puree 78%, sugar 8.5%, vinegar, corn starch, salt 1.15%, spices
From that we can see that there is 8.5% sugar and unknown amount of corn starch in amount somewhere between typically 3% and 6%. A total of 17% carbohydrates, ie of 100g of finished product potentially becomes 17g of glucose in the body – Which is no major difference from the same producer’s standard product.
If you have several different types of sugar / sweetener added, less of each is needed and they can appear further down the list of ingredients, than if it had been added as white sugar.
When producers display no added sugar / sugar-free – they are referring to just one of these – sucrose – the white sugar. All other sweeteners are allowed and the product can still be labeled sugar-free, no added sugar – Finding this sickening? you are not alone?
Then we come to the next big problem. It is not just these sweeteners mentioned above that act as sugars in our bodies. In fact, all starch is also broken down into glucose. Starch is long strings of glucose molecules which, when the starch is broken down in the body, are taken up by the liver as – your guessed right – glucose.
This means that all the starchy products you eat also contribute to the glucose mess in your body and mind, even though you may not be aware of that when you eat a slice of bread or a plate of pasta.
Starch is found in large quantities in all grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice and thus very concentrated in bread, pasta and rice. Root vegetables also have a relatively large proportion of starch in them, so if you are sensitive to sugar, then maybe you should be careful with it.
If you want some simple guidelines when scouting what to buy in the stores you can use the amount of carbs in the nutrition declaration as a guideline to the amount of glucose that the product will be digested and broken down to. Some carbs and digested faster than others – but this is the result that eventually enters your body and affects your liver, blodstreams and insulin production.