One of the most common challenges we hear from clients is dealing with a “sweet tooth.” Many people feel as though sugar is their weakness. Once they get a taste for a treat, they can’t stop themselves. Sugar addiction is real, but even if you aren’t truly addicted, sugar affects all of us.
If we better understand sugar and how it is used in foods, we can make healthier choices for our fuelings.
Try this simple experiment: Read the labels on the products you eat. See if you can find how many contain high-fructose corn syrup or table sugar. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, added sugars show up on food and drink labels under various names and so it may be described as one of the following:
- Anhydrous dextrose
- Brown sugar
- Cane crystals
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystal dextrose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fructose sweetener
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Liquid fructose
- Malt syrup
- Pancake syrup
- Raw sugar
- Sugar syrup
- White sugar
Other types of sugar you might see on ingredients lists are fructose, lactose, and maltose. Fructose is sugar derived from fruit and vegetables; lactose is milk sugar; and maltose is sugar that comes from grain.
If you look at original recipes for these same foods (perhaps the recipes used by your parents or in cookbooks from a generation ago), you’ll see very few of them contain sugar, much less high-fructose corn syrup.
Why is our food full of this stuff?
Well, when you add high-fructose corn syrup to salty foods like ketchup or lunch meats, we eat more of it and that means more money for the food industry. Your internal appetite control center is designed to tell you that you’re full when it senses specific quantities of certain nutrients in your blood. But food scientists working for food companies manipulate the ingredients in processed foods to prevent you from reaching the “I’m full” feeling.
And it’s working.
When food science began as a discipline in the 1970s, Americans were spending six billion dollars a year on fast food. Today, we’re spending 200 billion. The math is simple. Unfortunately, the truth may be even more diabolical than we thought.
In fact, one food company reportedly collaborated with a tobacco company to harness the research of cigarette addiction for use in selling more sweet and fatty foods.
The takeaway? Read the labels when you go shopping, especially when you buy processed foods. When you can, cook from scratch with whole ingredients to take back control of what goes into your food and into your body.