Sugar has a sneaky way of finding its place in foods you'd least expect, but there are a few places that will have to double-checking your fridge and taking a deep-dive into your shopping list.
But why do we see excess sugar in savoury products, you ask? Well, there are a number of reasons for this strange and unhealthy pattern – let’s take a look at the most common ones:
Shelf Life: Processed foods, including snacks, sugary beverages and convenience foods, often contain added sugars to enhance flavour and shelf life. These products can be a significant source of hidden sugars in the diet.
Convenience: Busy lifestyles have led to a greater reliance on convenience foods, many of which are laden with added sugars. These foods are quick and easy but may not always prioritise health.
Marketing: Food manufacturers often add sugars to products because they know that many people have a preference for sweet-tasting foods. This can make products more appealing and lead to increased sales.
Sugar is sometimes added to foods where you might not expect it, such as salad dressings, condiments, and canned soups. Reading food labels carefully is essential to identify hidden sugars. Sugary beverages like soda, fruit juices, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugars in many diets. These drinks are often consumed in large quantities and contribute significantly to daily sugar intake. Food companies sometimes use various names for added sugars on ingredient labels, making it challenging for consumers to identify them. Common terms for added sugars include sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and cane sugar. The increased consumption of added sugars has been linked to various health concerns, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Obesity is on the rise, and excess sugar is one of the major contributors – too much of this stuff can have long-term consequences like leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that signals satiety to the brain, and without this, many are left unable to suppress their appetite. Plus, we know sugar is addictive – it starts when dopamine is released in the brain in response to the sugar, which has been found to evoke a stronger reward response than drugs like cocaine. Recognising the sources of added sugars in your diet and making informed choices can help reduce your sugar intake and improve your overall health. It's recommended to prioritise whole, unprocessed foods and limit the consumption of highly sugary and processed products.
So, now that we’re onto these devious marketing and sales tactics, let’s dive into some of the major household staples you might not expect to be loaded with added sugar.
Potato chips are known for their savoury, salty flavour, but many brands include added sugar in their seasoning blends. The combination of sweet and salty can be enticing, making it easy to mindlessly consume more chips than you intended – ever find yourself unable to stop until the packet’s empty? You’re not alone. Worse yet, it’s 100% the intended result.
Bread, a dietary staple for many, can be a source of added sugar. Some commercial bread products, even those labelled as "whole grain" or "multigrain," may contain added sugars to enhance flavour. Opt for bread with minimal ingredients and no added sugars to keep your sandwiches sugar-free – always check the back of the packet and remember, the fewer ingredients the better.
Despite health claims on cereal boxes, many popular breakfast cereals are loaded with added sugars. These cereals may tout their "nutritious" ingredients, but the sugar content can outweigh the benefits. Look for low-sugar or unsweetened options or create your own cereal mix with whole grains, nuts, and dried fruits.
Pasta sauce is typically associated with the tangy taste of tomatoes, but some store-bought varieties contain added sugar to balance acidity. Check labels carefully and opt for sauces with no added sugars or make your own at home using fresh ingredients – if you’re worried about making too much, simply free the excess in containers or bags.
Yoghurt is often perceived as a healthy snack – after all, the probiotics are powerful gut-boosters – but flavoured yoghurt can be a hidden source of added sugar. Fruit-flavoured or sweetened yoghurts are often bursting with the stuff, leaving us prone to inflammation and sugar crashes. The solution? Choose plain or Greek yoghurt and add your own fresh fruits for natural sweetness, and always be sure to check the ingredients for any additives.
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