Secret Sugars

24 01 2015

I’ve been mulling around in my mind the subject of sugar for quite awhile. There is so much to say about sugar – there are books on it – and internet research is endless. So how to narrow down the topic and avoid getting bogged down in all the history, chemistry, and controversy? I decided to write about what bugs me – it’s not the sugar found in nature, but all the sugar added to processed foods, and even “healthy” foods that is the problem. I consider sugar in store-bought food “secret” because I’m always so surprised at the number of grams of sugar on the labels.

Now, I don’t want to rain on your food parade, or mine for that matter, because you can’t avoid sugar and sugar tastes good! You know the old adage, “everything in moderation;” well the problem is there is so much more sugar in foods than we realize, it’s easy to go way past moderation. I just want to raise my sugar IQ (and yours) and be more conscious of it in our food choices.

The Best And Most Thorough Article on Sugar

One of the reasons I kept putting off writing about sugar is that there is SO MUCH to cover. Then I found this website, and I realized I didn’t need to write an article on everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-sugar-but-were-afraid-to-ask. That article already exists! Steve Kamb has written an engaging, interesting, and easy to read article on SUGAR. Please read it – it really covers all the bases!! I thought I’d hit some of the highlights:

Sugar has many aliases. Agave nectar, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, organic evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, syrup. Whew! No wonder it’s hard to avoid. And that doesn’t even count all the simple carbohydrates we consume that the body converts to sugar!! Highly processed foods such as white bread and french fries have almost the same effect on blood sugar as regular sugar. Basically, the more refined (processed) the food, the more likely it’ll be to get converted quickly to sugar in our body.

High fructose corn syrup IS worse than other sugars. There isn’t that much difference between regular sugar (equal parts fructose and glucose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS – 55% fructose and 45% glucose), but the body metabolizes glucose and fructose differently. Glucose goes right in to the bloodstream and every cell can use it; fructose causes fat to accumulate in the liver. In this case, “a calorie is a calorie” does not compute. (Steve Kamb does not have this specific info in his article although he is right about HFCS being worse than other sugars.) I learned more about sugar from The Great Cholesterol Myth (see below).

Fruit juice is sugar-water. In my commissary where I do most of our food shopping, there is one whole side on a row, from beginning to end, filled with all kinds of fruit juices. All loaded with sugar! Why is there so much fruit juice for sale? Technology is the simple answer. Once pasteurization came along, fruit juice was able to last longer and ship far distances without spoiling. Personally, we’ve cut orange juice from our diet – even the Not from Concentrate! It’s sugar-water.

I know I wrote an article on juicing, but now we’ve even cut down on that! While you’re getting lots of nutrients, the sugars in fruit and veggies aren’t left behind with the pulp. More hidden sugar! Of course, it makes sense because one time I tried making soup from all the ground pulp and no amount of spices could make it taste good – we had drunk all the sugars! Obviously, some fruits are better than others in terms of sugar content, but whole fruits are better than juice any day because at least you get the fiber, too. Apples, pears, blueberries, and grapefruit have much less sugar than pineapple, cantalope, and mangoes.

Sugar is Addicting. As Steve Kamb says, the short answer to the question if sugar is addicting, is, yes it is! Basically, we are not genetically designed to consume the amount of sugar that we are currently eating.  For that reason, our brains get that ‘happy feeling’ from sugar and it can override the “I’ve had enough” mechanism. Don’t despair – he offers tips on how to get control of the sugar in your diet.

It Has How Much Sugar?

Looking at my cupboard, here is a sampling of what I found:

Bertolli Organic Traditional Spaghetti Sauce: 7g/1/2 cup

100% Pure Maple Syrup: 47g/1/4 cup (we do have pancakes occasionally)

Pace Medium Picante Sauce: 2g/2 tsp (multiply that for sure!)

Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans: 12g/1/2 cup (the 3-serving can would feed 2 people – multiply that)

Heinz Ketchup: 4g/1 TBSP (multiply that! – contains HFCS)

Pomegranate Juice: 32g/1 cup (justify that because I use half that in a smoothie and it’s high in anti-oxidants)

Original V8 Juice: 6g/1 cup (replaced OJ in our house many moons ago)

Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel ice cream cup: 26g (rare occasions!)

A really interesting list is on the Summer Tomato blog – she highlights the amazing amount of sugar in popular foods!

How Much Sugar is Okay?

If a food contains more than 15 grams per serving, you can consider it dessert according to Marion Nestle! Oops! In the old days, Americans consumed about 9 grams of sugar per day (1822); in 2012, Americans consume on average 150 grams of sugar per day! Can you believe Americans eat over 130 pounds of sugar a year? The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their sugar intake to no more than 6 teaspoons per day, which provides about 100 calories (25 grams), and men should limit sugar intake to no more than 9 teaspoons, or about 150 calories (37.5 grams).

The Institute of Medicine, a charter of the National Academy of Sciences, provides sugar recommendations different from those of the American Heart Association. The IOM states that added sugars should account for no more than 25 percent of the calories you eat. If you are on a standard 2,000-calorie diet, this means that you should be eating no more than 500 calories from sugar, or 125 grams. That seems pretty high to me and out of step with what I’ve been reading.

It’s not apples to apples, but the USDA recommendations state that the combination of added sugars and solid fats — which include butter, lard and margarine — should provide no more than 5 to 15 percent of daily calories (about 75 grams). Fat is not as evil as we’ve been led to believe by the way, but that’s for another article.

I think there’s a realistic, happy medium in there somewhere.

Why is Sugar Such a Big Deal?

Part of the problem with sugar is that it contains no minerals, no fiber, no enzymes, no vitamins. Nothing. It just tastes good. And, basically, too much sugar makes us fat, diabetic, gives us rotten teeth, and is a MAJOR cause of metabolic disease, including heart disease. Here is a pretty intense list of all the problems too much sugar can cause according to Dr. Nancy Appleton:

Since I started this article many months ago, I have read the book The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan That Will. Drs. Bowden and Sinatra make a very well-documented argument about the true causes of heart disease. There are four major causes of  heart disease and sugar is one of them! I’ll be reviewing the book in another article – it is excellent! I gave this book to everybody in my family for Christmas! There’s an Amazon link below if you’re interested – especially if you’re on a statin!

Bottom Line

Basically, we’re cutting our sugar intake in an effort to stay healthy and trim. The consumption numbers they recommend sound tough, but I think cutting out candy, sodas and fruit juices knocks that number way down. I’m not over worrying about sugars from fruits and vegetables, but we’re reading labels for added “secret” sugars and just trying to be more conscious and aware. You gotta pick your poison! Haha!


I did not get into the discussion of wine and alcohol and sugar content – mainly because the fact that there is sugar in alcohol is not a secret. However, you should definitely calculate the amount of sugar you’re drinking at the cocktail hour in to your overall diet. If you’re curious about sugar content in wine, here’s a good article from The Washington Post:




4 responses

24 01 2015
Cynthia Longabaugh

Good stuff!

24 01 2015
Benjamin Newman

Great job Debbie. The best review I have ever read. I will give this article to all my patients if ok with you. Please give my regards to the Boss. Warm regards, Ben

Benjamin G. Newman, MD, FAAFP

Sent from my iPhone


24 01 2015

Great info! I’m off sodas, eat very little candy BUT I do like my glass of red wine (with ice!). I’ll get to that link next year!

Pat O’Connor Sent from my iPad


26 01 2015
Deborah D. Loeffler

Thank you again for another great article. We all benefit from your excellent and well documented research delivered with a touch of humor which makes for very enjoyable reading. Keep up the great work. Fondly, Deborah Loeffler

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