Over the holiday weekend I, like many people, ended up in the bottom of a carton of egg nog. When I woke up from the coma, I checked the ingredient lists of a few items in my parents fridge, and not surprisingly some form of sugar was in most of them. Another thing I noticed on the lists were the various forms of sweeteners that were spread throughout the lists, and it reminded me of a topic I helped present at a high school coaches clinic during the summer.
It’s no secret that food manufacturers are sneaky little wankers when it comes to just about everything. One of the big tricks they use to trick customers is instead of using one form of sweetener, they will use up to 10 various forms of sweeteners. By doing this, it will keep sugar from being listed as the first ingredient. It’s common knowledge that the closer to the top of the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the product. If they were to use one sweetener, it would probably put the sweetener at the top of the list. Here is an example:
This is most common in heavily processed foods, but can show up in condiments and even your precious bottles of soy protein drinks. Another trick manufacturers use is changing the name of ingredients which are obviously sugar to something that sounds a little more wholesome. Here is a list of ingredients that are actually sugar, but the name have been changed to trick you.
Barley Malt Syrup
Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
Dehydrated Cane Juice
Fruit juice concentrate
High-fructose corn syrup
Sorghum or sorghum syrup
Your body doesn’t care if its sugar from a cane or from rice syrup, it’s still all just “sugar”, even if the sweetener is coming from apple, pear or grape juice concentrate.
There is also the presence of “sugar alcohol” in products like chewing gum, which can offer their own problems. Although it has alcohol in the name, it sadly wont give you a buzz. Instead, it means the body can’t completely absorb them. They have been known to ferment in the intestines and cause bloating, gas or diarrhea. Everyone can have different reactions to sugar alcohols, I’m sure you know how you respond to them. I worked with a nutritionist who had a client that started putting 1 pack of artificial sweetener on her cereal every day, and by the time she came in for consulting, she was up to 44 packs a day, because nothing tasted sweet to her anymore. She built up such a tolerance to sweeteners that she had to keep increasing the amount in order to taste the sweetness. Does that sound like a drug addiction to you?
Some folks like to use sugar alcohols because they offer a lower glycemic load (GL), but the glycemic index is a range rather than a fixed number. Since a gram of sugar alcohol offers a lower level of sweetness than a gram of table sugar, more must be used to achieve the same effect. Here is a chart from the Livesey Research center that shows the different results that sweeteners yield:
Food for children is especially something for parents to watch out for. “Healthy” foods for kids often contain more sugar than most soft drinks (for example, GO-GURT contains more sugar than Coca-Cola). Breakfast cereals and snack bars often are nothing more than sugar and food coloring. Another reason to watch your child’s sugar intake is the damage that the sugar will have on their teeth. Some parents actually give their 1-2 year olds cup after cup of apple juice!
I hope that this article will help you better understand some of the tricks of the ingredient list. Basically anything that ends in “-ose” is a sweetener. I recommend avoiding pre-packaged meals altogether, as most of them are devoid of real nutrients anyway. Personally, I have a pretty bad gum habit, and I know my gum contains xylitol. They claim that it helps tooth decay, but at what cost?
I better get back to my habit of chewing on cinnamon toothpicks.
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