How to Spot Sugar in Foods

Now that the days are getting longer and that spring is finally here, it’s going to be nice to spend more time outdoors. This may also be the perfect time to rethink our diet and reduce our sugar intake which may have gone up during the winter months. As mentioned in a previous post, “hidden” sugars are in most processed products. If undetected, hidden sugars can easily impact our blood sugar even when we might think our diet is reasonably healthy. Reading labels is really important. There are numerous names for sugar in processed foods, so being familiar with those names is helpful to stay away from all this unwanted sugar. It is also good to know the differences between the terms “sugar-free,” “no added sugar,” and “unsweetened.”

Names for Sugar in Processed Foods 

The following 61 names are listed by the UCSF Sugar Science department:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Sugar-Free

If it says “sugar-free” on a label, this means that the given food has less than half of a gram of sugar per serving. It can be any kind of sugar: the traditional refined sugar, maple syrup, honey, naturally-occurring sugars like lactose or fructose, etc. Sugarless alternative sweeteners are authorized under a sugar-free label as they do not add to the total sugar of the item.

No Sugar Added

If it says “no sugar added” on a label, this means that no sugar ingredients (including sugars from syrups and honey, concentrated fruit or vegetable juices) are incorporated during the processing of the given food. Even if there is “no sugar added,” the given food can still have some natural sugar (like a fruit would). 

Unsweetened

If a food is “unsweetened,” this means that it hasn’t been sweetened in any way: no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no natural sweeteners, no zero-calorie sweeteners.

In Summary

So if you want to cut down on your sugar intake, after doing away with sugary drinks and/or adding extra sugar to things, reading labels with the above guidelines in mind is essential. Managing our blood sugar is of primordial importance in order to maintain our health and wellness over the years.

Until next time!

Reference

Sisson, Mark. “61 Sneaky Names for Sugar You Find on Labels.” Mark’s Daily Apple Newsletter, 30 Mar. 2021, mark@marksdailyapple.com. Accessed 2 Apr. 2021.

You can also find me on Instagram.

What about Carbs?

When I eat, I do not count calories and I do not count macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Strictly focusing on primal/paleo foods, I minimize carb intake while optimizing fat intake. When it comes to protein intake, Mark Sisson said, “Your appetite will guide you effectively to meet your protein requirements, just as your thirst does for hydration requirements.” This intuitive approach to eating feels just right to me. 

If one wants to lose weight, it is important to keep in mind that too many carbs will trigger a high insulin production and this will put one’s body into fat-storing mode. The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve highlights what may be the best daily carb intake, in most cases, whether we have a few pounds to lose or for “effortless weight maintenance.” So here’s the suggested carbohydrates’ consumption range:

0 to 50 Grams of Carbs Per Day  

So few carbs a day will put one in ketosis and usually allow for quick fat loss. This might be alright for a day or two (like when doing Intermittent Fasting), but it is definitively not recommended for long periods of time for the majority of people.

50 to 100 Grams of Carbs Per Day

This amount of carbs is the “weight loss sweet spot.” Insulin production is still fairly low, so the body will be able to tap into its fat stores and produce ketones. At the same time, it is alright to eat from the whole selection of primal nutrient-dense whole foods (meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits).

100 to 150 Grams of Carbs Per Day

This amount of carbs is what works for most people for “effortless weight maintenance,” after reaching ideal body composition goals. I would say that this is when intuitive eating is king, provided there are no grains or processed foods eaten.

150 to 300 Grams of Carbs Per Day

Eating that many carbs each day will likely trigger “insidious weight gain” as insulin will have to be produced in greater quantities throughout the day. This amount of carbs can easily be reached when one eats grains and sugary snacks.

300 or More Grams of Carbs Per Day

So many carbs undoubtedly puts someone in a situation where measures have to be taken in order to head back in the right direction. Processed foods have to go!

In Summary

This carbohydrate curve is a nice help when we try to figure out what may be the next best step to reach optimal body composition. It takes time to be attuned to one’s body, especially after years of eating the Standard American Diet. But after switching to primal/paleo nutrient-dense foods, intuitive eating comes much more easily. See how your body responds to the changes you introduce. We are all unique individuals so you will have to decide for yourself what to eat depending on your daily activity levels. And of course, always consult your primary physician before starting anything new!

Until next time!

Reference

Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 414–26, 448-50.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Controlling Blood Sugar

Given that I now have a high carbohydrate sensitivity (as mentioned in my first blog post), I have to constantly watch my carbohydrate intake. I am doing this very rigorously by eating a low-carb diet (almost borderline keto diet). I bought a blood glucose monitor to help me see which foods tend to raise my blood sugar too much. This is really helpful to get a clear picture of what is okay to eat. No one should have to wait to have diabetes in order to do that. When I eat something slightly sweet, right away it makes me want to eat more. So I really stay away from anything containing too much sugar at this point. Healthy fats are way more satisfying anyway!

To help you get a better handle on monitoring your blood sugar levels, there are different strategies that you can implement. Ben Greenfield highlights these in Boundless. Here are four of them:

Strength Training

Strength training helps lower blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity, which also means less of a chance to store sugar as fat. Simple bodyweight exercises can be enough, such as: push-ups, lunges, and air squats. Squats are my favorite, since they’re easy to do throughout the day whenever you have a minute or two.

Pre-breakfast Fasted Cardio

According to research, exercising in the morning in a fasted state (meaning before you eat anything) can really help to keep your blood sugar in check.

Walking Right After Having your Meal

Short walks (20-30 minutes) right after eating are highly recommended too as they have been shown to lead to lower fat concentration in the blood.

Staying Physically Active During the Day

If walking after your meal is not always possible, then standing is the next best option (as opposed to sitting) in order to lessen post-meal blood sugar spikes. You can also switch between standing and sitting every 30 minutes or so. The main thing is to keep moving throughout the day, as mentioned in my two previous posts: 5 Simple Leg (&Hip) Stretches and Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable.

In Summary

To help with maintaining desired blood glucose levels, the above approaches are simple habits to take on. As always, it doesn’t have to be challenging. Just one or two small new changes at a time in the right direction. Which strategy will you implement first?

Until next time!

Reference

Greenfield, Ben. Boundless : Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2020, pp. 166–68.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Healthy sugar substitutes?

As we are now fully launched into the Holiday season, we should be looking to find ways to consume our delicious sweets while still bypassing the damaging effects regular refined sugar and artificial sweeteners offer. A great way to do this is by using healthy sugar substitutes. There are quite a few healthy sugar substitutes available in most stores now which means that making the switch has never been easier. 

What’s wrong with sugar?

The problem with sugar is that it is addictive, just like a drug. And consuming excessive amounts of sugar can trigger numerous health issues. In her book, Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health, Vani Hari lists some of the health issues consuming too much sugar can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Aging
  • Inflammation
  • Liver problems
  • Tooth decay
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Brain dangers
  • Poor immunity
  • Heart troubles

Healthy sugar substitutes to buy

Healthy sugar substitutes are not to be consumed in excess either. But they do have the advantage to satisfy your sweet tooth without the side effects refined sugar, artificial sweeteners (and high fructose corn syrup) can trigger. On his website, Dr. Axe lists 11 natural sweeteners that can be used as sugar substitutes:

  • Raw honey
  • Stevia
  • Dates
  • Coconut sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Banana puree
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Real fruit jam
  • Monk fruit

The sugar substitutes I use

Being now that I’m fifty and have a high carbohydrate sensitivity (as mentioned in my first blog post), I have to constantly watch my carbohydrate intake. I am doing this very rigorously by eating a low-carb diet (almost borderline keto diet) and as a result my hemoglobin A1C (a measure of blood sugar levels of three straight months) is 5.1 (the range being 4.8 – 5.6). I bought a blood glucose monitor to help me see which foods tend to raise blood sugar too much. This is really helpful to get a clear picture of what is okay to eat and no one has to wait to have diabetes in order to do that. I have monk fruit at home. Stevia is another option I would consume. When I eat something slightly sweet, right away it makes me want to eat more. So I really stay away from anything sugary at this point. Healthy fats can be way more satisfying anyway!

Are you consuming healthy sugar substitutes? What are your favorite ones?

References

Axe, Josh. “11 Best Sugar Substitutes (the Healthiest Natural Sweeteners).” Dr. Axe, 9 May 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/ sugar-substitutes. Accessed 28 Nov. 2019.

Vani Hari. FEEDING YOU LIES : How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health. Carlsbad, California, Hay House, Inc., 2019, pp. 81–88.

You can also find me on Instagram.