You may have heard the term “hidden sugars.” More companies are using this term, especially those focusing on health. People want you to know that brands add sugars into their products and a lot of the time you wouldn’t even notice. You need to check the ingredients list, and this can be difficult with some products.
Not all sugars are made equally. Just because something is sweet doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you. Something that is naturally sweet, like fruit, can actually be very good for you, especially when eaten fresh/frozen and whole.
So, what does the term “hidden sugars” mean? It’s just a term given for the sugars included in processed foods. While fructose or corn syrup are most commonly used, there are so many others to look out for. This list includes all the hidden sugars out there and their health risks.
Why Are Hidden Sugars Bad for You?
Before we get into the list, let’s look at why hidden sugars are so bad. After all, if natural sugars are okay, why aren’t the others? It’s the way the sugars breakdown in the body. Even natural sugars can be bad for you if consumed in the wrong way.
The benefit of natural sugars is all the other nutrients that are included. For example, berries are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients. They have enough fiber to release the sugars into the body slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels low. However, if you juice those berries, you’re getting rid of the fiber. The sugars are released directly into your body and will metabolize extremely quickly. They become just like the hidden sugars.
The refined sugars cause insulin and glucose impairments. You’re at a higher risk of Type II diabetes, along with other health problems, when you add too many hidden and refined sugars into your diet. High sugar levels can lead to liver dysfunction.
A major problem with sugars is that they’re extremely addictive. Studies have shown that sugars are worse than illegal drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, because of the dopamine that’s released when we eat them. The dopamine is that feel good hormone, leaving us happy and relaxed. But when you get it from something that’s bad for you, it can be extremely dangerous.
Sugars are linked to weight gain and obesity. They’re linked to heart disease and many other health problems.
Natural sugars can be helpful when eaten in the right way. Keeping your fruit whole or adding raw honey will offer a range of other health benefits. However, a healthy and balanced is important. Even in large amounts, the sugars can be bad for you; they’re just better than the hidden sugars.
The Ultimate List of Hidden Sugars
You may be surprised by the amount of hidden sugars that can be in your foods. Some of the names won’t even register as sugars in your brain at first. Companies will try to trick you by using technical names. Here’s a look at all the names you need to be aware of.
Anything that says sugar or syrup. Anything that has the term “sugar” or “syrup” in its name is a sugar. That includes rice sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, and confectioner’s sugar. Yes, even corn syrup is a sugar. They may not look as dangerous as your usual white sugar that you buy for sweetening your tea and coffee, but they are unhealthy for you.
They will all cause the same risk of high blood sugar levels. As your body releases more insulin, the body gets used to it and builds up a resistance. You can then end up with requiring more insulin for the older levels of glucose (blood sugar). Eventually y
our body struggles to release insulin and you struggle with diabetes.
Fructose is the most common. The most common type of hidden sugar is fructose. It makes up 85% of agave, which is supposedly a healthy natural sweetener! You want to avoid agave with a passion. It’s also added to energy drinks, barley water, granola bars, and much more.
Fructose has been linked to obesity rates in the most recent decades. This may be because it’s the most popular, but it also shows how dangerous it is. Surprisingly, we can consume 10% of our daily calories through fructose! Because it’s linked to obesity, it’s also linked to the rising diabetes crisis.
Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. These are very similar to each other, and the other highly popular additives to products. They’re found in canned foods, sodas, yogurts, and even frozen pizzas! Yes, frozen pizzas have sugars added to them. Who would have thought?
High fructose corn syrup is the most dangerous of the two, but they’re both bad for you. They’re linked to increasing the amount of fat stored in the body, which leads to weight gain. Your body can’t process corn syrup well, so the blood sugar levels increase considerably. You’re then left with a sugar crash afterwards, leading to more sugar cravings and poor energy levels.
As the body metabolizes the two types of sugar, the rest of the calories in food are stored for later. You encourage the body to store the fat for later use, only to never get around to using them!
Agave nectar isn’t natural or healthy. As mentioned, agave nectar is 85% fructose, which means it isn’t as natural or as healthy as initially assumed. It’s far more concentrated than high fructose corn syrup, meaning it can lead to all of the health problems already mentioned on a larger scale.
You’ll usually find it in ice cream and cereals, but it’s also added to organic foods! While it’s sweeter and you need less, you’re not getting rid of the concentration of the added sugar.
Watch out for malt beers with barley malt. Barley malt isn’t used as often, but is found in a number of malt beers and candy bars. It’s a grain-based sugar, which is less sweet than normal cane sugar. The problem is that you end up using more to get the same sweet taste if you add it to your own meals.
The malt is high on the glycemic index. It’s one of the worst for making your blood sugar levels spike, increasing the risk of Type II diabetes.
Avoid beet sugar entirely. Beet sugar makes up around 20% of sugar around the world. This isn’t a good thing. Not only is it a sugar, but it’s also genetically modified on a number of occasions. You’ll not realize because it’s normally unlabelled! This truly is a hidden sugar.
The good news is if you get organic and natural ingredients, you’ll usually avoid this. It’s mostly added to processed foods and sugar products.
Watch out for sulfured blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses can be considered a good sugar to add to your diet now and then. You just need to get the right type. Usually added to gingerbread and baked beans, it can be an excellent source of folate, calcium, iron, and many other antioxidants. However, that’s only when you get unsulfured blackstrap.
Most of the stuff you will find is sulfured, which means it loses all the nutrients and you just consume the empty calories. You can’t tell from the label if you’re getting the good or bad stuff. It’s important to get in touch with manufacturers and ask them directly. Those that want you to know their products are safe will be more than happy to tell you.
Don’t switch white for brown sugar. You know white sugar is bad for you, but there are beliefs that brown sugar is different. This is definitely not the truth. The two are exactly the same. It’s just the color and taste that are different. You will still get the same health issues.
The same applies to butter cream and buttered sugar. These are popular in cookies and cakes because they’re considered safer, but you’re getting sugars and cholesterol at the same time. You’re mixing the downsides of sugar and butter together in one sitting!
Cane juice is not a healthier alternative. Next up is cane juice, and its crystals. Both are considered safer than white sugar, but it’s another misconception. They are found in cookies, baked goods, yogurts and beverages, but you should avoid both as much as possible.
Both contain empty calories. That means you’re getting no nutritional properties. There are some that include extra harmful properties added to them, making them even more dangerous than table sugar! Cane juice is developed in nations that tends to have lower health regulations, meaning you’re more at risk of your drinks and food being contaminated with bacteria.
Cane sugar should also be avoided. It makes up 80% of sugar in the world, so it’s going to be hard but it really isn’t good for you. Manufactured from sugar canes, the sugar has been linked to increasing cholesterol and blood pressure, while causing insulin resistance.
Caramel is a sugar. You may be surprise to hear that caramel is considered a sugar. You’ll know when you have it, and it’s often used as a flavor for many candies and desserts.
The caramelization process uses heat on sugars. You’re literally putting heated up sugars into your body, which means plenty of calories and carbohydrates. It’s one of the most common candy flavors, but also one of the worst for high blood sugar levels.
Coconut sugar isn’t a good substitute. There are many beliefs that if you want a healthy substitute then you should use coconut sugar. After all, it’s natural, right? It’s certainly something allowed to be added to diabetic foods because of the lower risk of blood sugar level increases.
However, it turns out that coconut sugar still isn’t the greatest option. It doesn’t have the nutrients that fruits and vegetables have. However, if you want something quick to add to your dishes, it is going to be healthier than the fructose options!
Corn sweeteners are sugars too. It’s common to view the term sweetener as something different to sugar, but they’re just the same in many cases. Corn sweetener tends to be added to cough syrups and antacids, but is also added to many frozen foods.
While it’s not quite as bad as corn syrup, the downside is how it’s often genetically modified. You won’t find the distinction on the food label and there are many untested versions out there. We have no idea what type of risk we’re putting our bodies under with this sweetener.
Crystalline fructose may cause liver disease. While most sugars are linked to diabetes, there are some linked to other health problems. Crystalline fructose is one of those. Found in most fruit flavorings for baked goods and fruit flavors it’s highly likely that you will add it to your diet without realizing. All you’re adding is pure fructose to your body!
A major issue is that studies show it can cause hyperlipidemia. This is when there are high fat levels stored within the blood, which can cause a range of health problems linked to the heart and other organs. You’re also at a higher risk of fatty liver disease, which can cause issues for releasing toxins from the body.
Date sugar can still be bad for you. Watch out for the amount of date sugar you add to your diet. While it is better for you than process sugar, it’s still high in calories. Date sugar is from the fruit, but you’re losing the fiber so you’re not getting the health benefits from the natural sugar. You still run the risk of all the health problems caused by other sugars.
Don’t bother with dextran. If you look at the ingredients list, you may find dextran added as an ingredient. This is a food additive and used with other sugars in many cases. It’s hard for the body to break it down, turning it into a starch.
While at first this can look like a positive, there are dangers if you have allergies. Most dextran is created in the same place as corn and wheat products. You run the risk of an allergic reaction.
You can also see maltodextrin in the ingredients list. This is very similar to dextran, and is linked to problems in those with celiac disease, due to the allergens.
Fruit juice concentrates are not good for you. Fruit juice is considered good for you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember that you’re taking out all the nutrients and leaving your body with sugar to process. Fruit juice concentrates are even worse though, and you’ll find them in fruit-flavored yogurts and fruit juices.
The concentrate is created by removing the water from the fruit juice. So you take out every possible nutrient from the natural sugars. You’re increasing the risk of type II diabetes.
Avoid dairy products with galactose. The –ose at the end of a term should give away the fact that you’re adding another sugar to your body. Galactose is often found in dairy and vegetable products, as well as fast foods. It’s a natural sugar, but has serious health problems.
This hidden sugar has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. It’s also been linked to increasing the blood pressure, which causes other health problems.
Watch out for glucose, also known as grape juice. If you see grape juice added to anything, keep in mind that it’s just an alternative name for glucose. The name of this sugar should tip you off to the idea that it’s bad for you. Glucose is what sugars metabolize to into the bloodstream.
It’s found in fruits naturally, but also added to fast food and baked products. There are studies that show glucose increases your cholesterol levels. You’re at a higher risk of heart disease and weight gain. There are also studies that show due to the acidity of glucose, your blood’s acidity increases and that leads to other health problems.
Stick to raw honey in moderation. You may hear that honey is a good natural alternative for sugars, but you need to look out for raw honey. Even when you do, you want to keep the use of it to a minimum. Other types of honey are pasteurized and lack the health benefits that raw honey offers.
The honey you get in stores is packed with added sugar and other additives. You’re increasing the chances of weight gain by using it as a sugar replacement.
Maple syrup is another to keep to a minimum. While it’s not as bad as other sugars, it still has negative side effects to the health.
Keep your lactose intake to a minimum
You’ve likely heard of the term lactose intolerance, and you know that links to an intolerance to an ingredient in dairy products. Well, it’s the natural sugars within dairy products that people are intolerant to. You may be lactose intolerant without even realizing. The sugar doesn’t digest very easily, leading to cramping and bloating in the digestive system.
It can also lead to some weight gain. Too much lactose can lead to an overconsumption of the nutrients. Don’t bother with the skim milk, as the lactose amounts can be higher. You want to skip to almond or soy milk to avoid the lactose and still get the milk benefits.
Organic raw sugar isn’t FDA defined. It’s common to see the term “natural” and think something is healthy for you. Let me let you into a secret. The FDA doesn’t actually define or regulate that “natural” definition. Anything can claim it’s natural, but that’s not actually the case. Your organic raw sugar isn’t actually as natural is you expect.
Most organic raw sugar is processed. It’s refined and packed with chemicals. You’re causing high blood sugar issues, as well as adding more toxins to your body.
Keep sucrose off the table. Sucrose is more commonly referred to as table sugar. Either way you need to keep it off the table! It’s been part of the growing diabetes crisis for decades, and there are no signs of this stopping. The best thing you can do is keep it away.
You’ll find it in biscuits, pies, cakes, and so much more. Whether you see it written as “sugar,” “white sugar,” or “sucrose,” it’s there. And you’ll also find it in your maple syrup.
Put Your Health First
The best way to get a sweet taste is by eating fruits and vegetables whole. Get the fiber and the natural sugars together, so you benefit from all the nutrients at the same time. That’s not to say all the above sugars need to be avoided. Some are better than others and as part of a balanced diet, you can put your health before taste without causing a dip in your mood.