I remember growing up in a time where fat was considered the ultimate dietary enemy. Everything was low-fat or fat-free. All fat was considered equally evil, no matter what its type. Over the last few years, however, many fats have been recognized as beneficial. To make low- and fat-free foods taste better, salt and sugar were used liberally in prepackaged foods and in baked goods. Over the past few years, people have begun to realize that the extra sugar is actually more problematic than fat, potentially playing a larger role in the rise in obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. Along with being delicious, our brains recognize sugar as survival. While protein and fat are important, sugar is an immediate source of energy and has never been as readily available as it is now.
Because sugar can act as a preservative, and because it makes food taste good for very little money, companies use it liberally. No one would be surprised to find sugar in baked goods, jams and jellies, ice cream, or other sweet foods, but it also hides in savory foods that no one would suspect. Here are some foods to be particularly careful of, along with some tips on how to reduce your hidden sugar intake.
Read the Ingredient List
The best way to figure out where sugar is hiding is to read ingredient lists. Unfortunately, most added sugar isn’t called “sugar”. Keep an eye out for the following words — they’re just more forms of sugar!
- Invert Sugar
- Corn Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Cane Sugar
- Organic Cane Sugar
- Beet Sugar
- Brown Rice Syrup
Savory Foods that Contain Hidden Sugar
Canned broth and stock are considered a staple in many pantries, and for good reason. It’s a convenient way to add flavor to soups, stews, gravies, and many other dishes. The fact that it’s shelf-stable means that there is no need to take up room in the freezer or refrigerator, and obtaining them requires nothing more than a trip to the store, rather than hours of simmering bones.
Unfortunately, while canned broths are convenient, some contain added sugar. Check out the ingredient list of your favorite brand for extra sugar. While not all brands contain added sugars, if you’re using one that does, you’re getting a bigger dose of sugar with your chicken soup than you might think.
Another place to watch out for added sugar is in canned tomatoes. While I have never seen plain diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato paste that contain added sugar, I was dismayed to find that every brand of stewed tomatoes I’ve investigated have high fructose corn syrup added to them. Most tomatoes, stewed or otherwise, that have herbs or other flavors added to them also contain high fructose corn syrup. Be wary of tomatoes with no added salt, too. While they may not all have added sugar, some brands may add it to make the tomatoes “more palatable”.
While I throughly enjoy sweet treats — ok, let’s face it, I love dessert — I want to know when there is sugar in my food, and I want to decide where it comes from, not have that decision made by the company that makes my chicken broth.