Monday, November 29, 2010

Product ingredients labels - sugars

We have all heard the sensational headlines about this or that additive to food that is suddenly thought to be unhealthy or the latest magic bullet!  I thought I would include an occasional set of posts on some of the ingredients that are in the processed foods we buy.  I'll try to explain simply why they are added and if necessary link to some studies about their health effects (although remember everything is hazardous to your health if taken in too large a quantity - even water*)

Since I recently posted on making brittle, I will briefly discuss sugars.

Many food products have either sugar, glucose or fructose as added ingredients.  Sucrose is often made from sugar cane or sugar beets and is the most commonly found ingredient in soft drinks and foods.
Fructose is the sugar produced by fruits and lactose is the sugar found in milk.

Sucrose and lactose have similar structures as do glucose and fructose.

Sucrose and lactose (as well as many starches) are broken down into glucose in our digestive tract. We need a steady level of glucose to remain healthy - the body produces insulin to control the amount of glucose - extra glucose is turned into fat which can be changed back to glucose when needed.  Diabetics have problems producing insulin in their livers and end up with too much glucose in their bloodstream which makes them hyperglycemic.  They need to either very strictly control their intake of sugars and starches and/or take insulin to make up for what their body is not producing.

A healthy body balances our sugar intake with insulin production - and if we eat too much sugar (my bad..) we create fat!

We eat via food and drink tremendous amounts of sugar - sugar is added to almost everything since it tastes so good!
One hundred and fifty-six pounds. That's how much added sugar Americans consume each year on a per capita basis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Imagine it: 31 five-pound bags for each of us.
That's not to say that we get most of the sugar in our diets directly from the sugar bowl. Only about 29 pounds of it comes as traditional sugar, or sucrose, according to The Sugar Association, a trade group of sugar manufacturers. The rest comes from foods.
Of course, those foods include things like candy, soda, and junk food. But plenty of sugar is hiding in places where you might not expect it.
Some types of crackers, yogurt, ketchup, and peanut butter, for instance, are loaded with sugar -- often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. Use of this sweetener has increased 3.5% per year in the last decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That's twice the rate at which the use of refined sugar has grown.   
A 12 ounce (355 mls) bottle of soda has typically 35-39 grams of sugar!  Would you sit down and eat 7 teaspoons of sugar?  But you would drink a can of Coke (actually I don't - I find it way too sweet!) but even one of my favourites is root beer and it is just as sweet.  Fruit juices are not much better even when they are pure juice (with no added sugar) - the fruit just contains fructose instead of sucrose.
Here is a video that shows just how much sugar this really is:

So read the labels!

* Disclaimer: the link is a hoax - dihydrogen monoxide = water H2O



  1. I don't know if I count as a "peer" review but I am really concerned about high fructose corn syrup and it's prevalence in our foods. I like to buy prepared foods and mixes sometimes instead of making everything from scratch and yet I worry about consuming this ingredient.

  2. hey, you are my peer since you are also a cook!

    I just looked into the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) debate and it seems that consuming large amounts can be a contributing factor to obesity:
    But again, I'd say used in moderation it is not toxic. I would worry if one was consuming 2-3 soft drinks a day (which is surprisingly common these days) and having a lot of prepared foods with this product in it.
    The occasional cake mix or take out meal is not going to make a huge difference.

  3. I do enjoy the Dihydrogen Monoxide site, but, do know that it is possible to drink too much water. Some evidence for that:

  4. Somebody should report that the Dihydrogen Monoxide is a complete hoax. They're taking advantage of the fact that some stupid people believe that you can't put anything on the internet that's not true (which they may or may not have learned from the internet itself) and will believe anything they read on the internet. There's something I saw posted in a classroom once. It said: "'The trouble with quotes from the internet is you never know if they are genuine' [or something like that] -Abraham Lincoln." ANYWAY, some people took advantage of the fact that there are stupid people out there and decided to make a website all about how WATER is "dangerous." The fact that they called it "Dihydrogen Monoxide" would make it even more convincing to some people because it sounds more like some "dangerous chemical" because it has a name that might remind them of Carbon Monoxide, which is a dangerous gas that is colorless and odorless. To be continued...

  5. I think the whole reason they made up the site was to show that people should NOT believe everything they read on the internet. SO I am not sure why you feel there is a problem?

  6. Sugar industry, incredibly, insists that once you look at the research, no expert says that sugar leads to any disease, even obesity.

    sugar industries


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