As a part of its fight against public health woes like obesity and dental caries, the World Health Organization has said that it would like to see adults cut their sugar consumption to just 5 percent of daily caloric intake. However, it acknowledges that this may be difficult for many so it is maintaining its 2002 guidelines which recommend double this amount at 10 percent. Given that 5 percent represents an intake of just six teaspoons of sugar per day or 25 grams, experts point out that it may be especially hard for consumers to meet this goal due to the fact that sugar in foods comes from sometimes surprising sources.
Part of the problem with sugar lies in the fact that it’s not just overtly sweet foods which contain it. For example, a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, which is generally considered to be more savory than sweet, contains about 12 grams of sugar – half the recommended daily amount. Swanson’s Skillet Meals Alfredo Chicken has 8 grams per serving, providing about one-third of the daily maximum. So, even if a person takes his coffee without sugar and avoids sugary desserts, he may still be getting a sizable amount of sugar throughout the day, especially if he consumes many packaged foods.
Since people can’t always go by the taste of a food in determining its sugar content, nutritionists say it is very important that they learn to read labels. In addition, they say, it’s not just the word sugar that people should be looking for. Sugar can come from other surprising sources, such as these:
- Sucrose – Sucrose is just another name for table sugar.
- Evaporated cane juice – While this term may sound a bit healthier than sugar, it’s basically the same thing as table sugar, but with some of the molasses left behind to give it a brownish color. The nutritional value, however, is virtually the same. The yogurt maker Chobani was sued by a northern California woman who believed its use of the term is misleading to consumers. While that lawsuit was dismissed in February 2014, several other food manufacturers, including Blue Diamond, Trader Joe’s and Wallaby Yogurt Company, still have suits pending.
- Agave nectar – While this sweetener is claimed to be natural and more healthy than sugar, the truth is, it’s not that much different from any other type of sugar. The term natural has no legally-enforceable meaning when it comes to foods and the amount of vitamins and minerals in this highly-processed sweetener are too small to make any difference.
- Fruit juice concentrate – While fruit in it’s natural form is a good source of fiber and nutrients, fruit juice concentrate is concentrated sugar. Without the benefit of fiber to slow blood sugar rise, it has devastating effects on metabolism.
- 100 % fruit juice – Fruit juice presents the same problems as fruit juice concentrate.
- High fructose corn syrup –Putting aside the controversies that have surrounded this sweetener, it is similar in composition to table sugar as far as the simple sugars that compose it. Because of this, it has the same ill effects on health when consumed in large amounts.
- Anything with -ose on the end – The ending -ose indicates the scientific name for a sugar. While people often think of sucrose (table sugar) as being “sugar,” there are many different types of sugar.
- Blackstrap molasses – While this old-fashioned sweetener is slightly better for health due to its vitamin and mineral content, it’s still sugar.
- Organic brown rice syrup – In addition to the fact that this sweetener is sugary, it has also faced problems with arsenic contamination.
- Others – Unfortunately the items on this list aren’t the only surprising sources of sugar out there. Sugar also lurks in food products under such names as barley, diastase, diastatic malt, golden syrup, panocha, sorghum syrup and treacle.
Given the many different names and forms that sugar takes and the fact that even savory foods like soups are often chock full of it, it appears that WHO has its work cut out for it in the battle against obesity and other sugar-related health concerns.
By Nancy Schimelpfening