You’ve heard that sugar is bad for you, and you probably do what you can to avoid the stuff. But it’s not always as simple as steering clear of sweets.
Recent research from the University of North Carolina found that 60 percent of packaged foods and drinks in grocery stores have some form of added sugar in them. While there were obvious foods in the mix, like cookies and cakes, scientists found that less-obvious products like breads, sauces, and even meats also had a fair amount of added sugar.
There’s a reason companies add sugar to products that don’t seem to need it: We buy them.
Of course, plenty of people read labels, but added sugar comes in a variety of names, such as honey, date nectar, coconut sugar and fruit juice concentrates.
Clearly this isn’t good for us. Diets rich in added sugars add too many nutrient-poor calories, which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes, and too many added sugars are also linked to heart disease. Plus, food companies tend to swap out good, nutrient-rich ingredients for less-expensive sugar, leaving you with a more sugary product that gives you less nutritional bang for your buck.
Here are a few sneaky, sugar-laden products to watch out for:
BBQ sauce: 6-7 grams of sugar per one tablespoon
Marinara sauce: Up to 22 grams of sugar per serving
Tomato sauce: Up to 6 grams of sugar per serving
Salad dressing: Up to 9 grams of sugar per two-tablespoon
Packaged cereals and granola: Some “healthy” varieties contain 18 grams of sugar per serving
Oatmeal: Flavored versions can contain 12 grams of sugar per serving
Flavored yogurt: Up to 18 grams of sugar per serving—more than a serving of ice cream
There are a few things you can do to reduce the added sugars in your diet. You can buy steel cut oatmeal and plain Greek yogurt, and add your own fruits and flavoring.
And finally, pay close attention to the ingredients list—especially now that companies are getting sneakier about how they present the sugars that they add. Companies often use two or three different sugars so that they appear lower in the food ingredient list instead of using all as one that would make ‘sugar’ appear as the first ingredient. And keep an eye out for terms like “brown rice syrup,” “agave,” and “cane juice.” While they may sound healthy, they’re still sugar.