If you’d like to learn firsthand about the harmful effects of hidden sugars in foods, watch this entertaining and enlightening documentary called “That Sugar Film.”
The Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, subjects himself to an incredibly unhealthful diet that consists of 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. Depending on what resource you cite, the average American adult consumes between 42 to 77 teaspoons of sugar daily.
Here’s the most interesting part. In “That Sugar Film,” Damon doesn’t consume the typical sugar laden foods such as baked goods, soft drinks, or ice cream. Instead, he consumes so-called “healthy foods” with hidden sugars.
Hidden Sugars in Foods: Damon’s 60-day Diet
Damon purchased foods found mostly in Australian grocery stores.
The most common sources of added sugar are cane sugar, honey, agave syrup, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, and tapioca syrup.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to comment on hidden sugars found in foods and brands in the United States.
Chobani is a popular milk-based yogurt. Their black cherry Greek yogurt contains 9 grams of added sugar. (2.25 teaspoons)
Do you eat plant-based yogurts with fruit? Chobani’s oat-based blueberry pomegranate has a whopping 15 grams of added sugar. (3.75 teaspoons)
As I discussed previously, added sugars are problematic in many plant-based milks with 5-7 grams of added sugar per 8 ounces glass. If you drink three glasses of plant-based milk daily, the added sugar starts to matter.
Here’s a bit of food industry trivia. Ever wonder why children’s cereals are placed at eye level with kids? Simple answer: to lure them in. That way children can pester their parents to purchase. Especially if children see cartoon characters on the box. Ugh!
Overall, children’s cereals are a nutritionally worthless breakfast food. I know, that’s a tough statement. And the top prize goes to Honey Smacks with 18 grams of added sugar. That’s 4.5 teaspoons per 1 cup serving. Where does all that sugar come from? The ingredient list cites several sources of added sugar: sugar, glucose syrup, honey, and fruit juice.
Is adult cereal such as granola any better? Not really.
Let’s take a peek at the #5 granola brand on Amazon: KIND Healthy Grain Clusters, Almond Butter Granola. It has approximately 3 teaspoons of added sugar in a teeny tiny 4 tablespoon serving size. That means that a quarter of it is sugar!
Look at the ingredient line. There are several added sugar sources: oats, tapioca syrup, cane sugar, soy protein isolate, brown rice, canola oil, honey, almond butter (almonds), oat flour, buckwheat, molasses, millet, amaranth, quinoa, natural flavor, brown rice syrup, sea salt, cinnamon, Vitamin E (tocopherols to maintain freshness).
Fruit Juices/Fruit Juice concentrate
Two of the most popular fruit juice flavors are apple and orange. Mott’s apple juice has a whopping 28 grams (7 tsp.) of sugar per 8 fl. oz. serving. Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice has 22 grams of sugar per 8 fl. Oz. serving. (5.5 tsp.)
I can hear you saying, “But these juices have no added sugar.” That’s true. But here’s the important point – the natural sugar found in fruit juices is extremely concentrated. The insoluble fiber is missing, as well as some nutrients normally found in the whole fruit.
The combination of a concentrated source of sugar coupled with the absence of insoluble fiber means that the calories from fruit juice don’t make you full, and can lead to weight gain. As I mention in the Free Sugar Guide, don’t drink your calories.
Here’s a better approach: eat a whole piece of fruit instead. One apple instead of a glass of apple juice. One orange instead of a glass of orange juice. By eating whole fruit, you’ll get both insoluble fiber and nutrients. You’ll feel full, and the fiber will delay the absorption of natural sugar which allows your liver to do its job properly.
Pressed juices (juicing at home and commercially available cold pressed juices)
I couldn’t leave this discussion of juice without commenting on cold pressed juices purchased at the supermarket, and the juicing-at-home movement.
Pressed juices sporting the health halo, and touted by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, have the same problem as your ordinary apple and orange juice. They are pressed; the insoluble fiber is missing.
Instead of pressing fruit juices at home, try blending them to retain the fiber and skin. Add vegetables. Add some fat or protein to slow the absorption of sugars. But don’t make this a daily habit.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods when it comes to buying energy bars, granola bars, and nutrition bars. This is a multi-billion- dollar market that has positioned itself as good-for-you snacking.
Let’s look at the KIND Energy Chocolate Chunk bar with marketing that touts 5 super grains, dark chocolate, and honey. The reality is that this tiny bar has 10 grams (2.5 tsp.) of added sugar.
A similar sized Clif Bar has 21 grams (5.25 tsp.) of added sugar with the first ingredient listed as organic brown rice syrup.
Final Thoughts on Hidden Sugars in Foods
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t hard at all for Damon Gameau to find so-called healthy foods that added up to 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. Like Damon, it’s not hard for any of us to consume this much.
As I’ve mentioned to Lady Moxy members whom I personally coach, it’s super important to read the ingredient labels on all of your packaged foods.
Big Food is a marketing machine. Ignore the front of the package. Read the back. Nutrition labels and ingredient lines tell the real story.
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