Friday, July 22, 2011

Delectable sweetness?

It's yummy, but is it having a negative effect on our wellbeing?

Of course we're aware that biscuits, cakes and soft drinks are generously laced with sugars or sugar like products.  But when you're buying packaged and processed "convenience" foods it's a real challenge to decrease your sugar intake as it's been added to so many foods.

It's possible to avoid the obvious ones if you're determined, but as David Gillespie says in his blog  How Much Sugar  here: 
"A smoker is addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is found in cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicorettes and insecticide. It’s not the kind of thing you’re likely to come across by accident. In fact anyone consuming it, is doing so very much on purpose.  
If you decide that you no longer wish to be addicted to nicotine, there is a very short list of things you should stop doing:
Do not put cigarette in mouth.
If you discover a cigarette in your mouth do not light it.
Do not drink insecticide.
There. Done. Now you just need to wait about three weeks for the addiction to pass. Easy.
A Sugarer (the collective noun for people addicted to Sugar – and yes I did just make that up) has a much more daunting task ahead of them.
The active ingredient (from an addiction point of view) in sugar is fructose. Thanks to the marvels of modern food production, fructose is now embedded in almost every single food item on the supermarket shelf. Imagine how hard it would be stop smoking if everything you ate or drank contained the addictive ingredient.
Giving up fructose is far harder than giving up nicotine. You still have an addiction to fight but before you even get that far you’ve got to pick your way through a minefield of fructose filled foods." 
Well said David! Visit his informative website and blog for further information, Sweet Poison is (here) 

I was shopping this morning and dare I say, feeling just a little smug, after all I choose mostly fresh foods, and cook from scratch. I enjoy cooking (mostly ... when I have time). I'd been rabbiting on about hidden sugars and just out of curiosity had a look at some baby foods marketed as first solids, all pure, nothing added. All had at least 1 teaspoon of sugar per serve! Not just the fruit mixes, but the vegetable ones too. I hate to think what that does to the little ones emerging teeth, and so often you see young mums feeding their children convenience foods, then a fruit juice if not a soft drink that has been decanted into a baby bottle.

A browse through my pantry was in order now ... and were there any surprises?

You bet! The innocent looking and very handy herb blends have between 2 and three teaspoons per hundred grams, and are also stuffed with salts. I'm regularly adding a teaspoon or more of unnecessary sugar to meals that wouldn't be there if I'd used fresh herbs, and I don't want to think about that extra salt.

I knew tomato sauce was laden with salt and always choose the low salt option, but discovered that for each 20 ml (a modest sized dollop) there is one whole teaspoon of sugar. It's very easy to have double that at a barbeque, without really trying. However, if I chose my favourite Eggplant Pickle, there's a whopping two teaspoons per serve. Ouch.

What you can do 
Sugars aren't always labeled to be consumer friendly,  so you'll need to check out the labels of all foods very carefully if you want to cut down on those secreted away in foods.

There are a number of alternative names for sugars to look for on package labels - glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, corn syrup, dextrose.

No added sugar
What exactly does that mean? Simply that the manufacturer hasn't added any extra sugar to the product he's purchased. However, the product itself could be positively stuffed with sugar (or salt, or MSG or whatever)  and the label may be seen to be true and accurate.

I remember hearing about a rather scrumptious juice available at a juice bar here which claimed to have no added sugar. It emerged that whilst the juice bar didn't add sugar on the premises, their suppliers had already laced the beverage with generous quantities of sugar, but called it (correctly) fructose. I'd use the word obfuscation for that practise.

Health issues
As David cited, all of these extra sugars are creating massive health problems when they're over consumed, and as I've found, it's extremely challenging to be aware of all the food items where sugar is stashed, even when you're a relatively savvy consumer.

Given that the negative health effects may increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, leading to insulin resistance, not to mention tooth decay, I think it's worth being a wary consumer.  How about you?



Cruella Collett said...

This is so true, and so very scary. Even with the very best intentions, it's near impossible to avoid sugar. And then there is the lack of good intentions to take into consideration too....

Liza said...

In the US, another term for sugar is "natural flavoring." That done drives me nuts!

Anonymous said...

The really scary thing is that this has been done to the public on purpose by food processers who don't give a rats ass about people. All they care about is the bottom line. OUR bottom line is what's paying the price.

Talli Roland said...

You definitely need to be a savvy shopper these days! I always try to buy whole foods and make any sauces, etc, myself. said...

That's an interesting point about "No sugar added." I look at labels, since I'm in the group of sugarers. I try to save my sugar calories for the really good stuff (e.g., desserts and not spaghetti sauce). Alas, it's all a good reminder and one I needed. Thanks.

sue said...

Mari, lack of good intentions ... that's something for me to think about.

I'm thinking of you and your countrymen. Sad times.

Liza, oh gosh, I haven't heard of that one. That's really low.

Dolores, yep, and it's presented as in our best interests. *sigh. I wonder how it will end.

Talli, I feel a bit silly that I haven't thought to check out herb additions. Whole foods really are best aren't they.

Robyn, these posts have been a wake up call to me too. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could trust businesses to be honest, ethical and work for the good of the environment and mankind.

Better is Possible said...

Oh my! Sugar too. I've been reading labels to avoid high sodium content. That seems to be the big buzz in BC right now. Now I'll need to watch for sugar as well. WHAT is a girl to eat? Eventually it'll be me and my wine!

sue said...

BiP, Not fair is it.

Sugar, sodium and MSG, all addictive and generously added to so many foods to help those voracious big businesses keep their market share. No care for us or the vast tracts of land needed to grow the crops to feed our over-consumption. (I do get a bit passionate about this!)

I've been thinking it'd be fun to make my own wine. I'll let you know if I do ;)