Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hidden Sugar: Sugar in Unsuspected Places

The following examples are of less obvious or even hidden sugars that you may be consuming on a frequent or even daily basis. Hopefully this information will help you determine sugar in your diet. When a client tells me they “don’t eat sugar” yet they have (what looks like) sugar breakouts, I start down a list of possible problem foods that perhaps they have overlooked as being “bad.”

Be honest. I find that after asking lots of questions, a client will eventually tell me about some sugary food they are eating—knowing that it is probably a bad thing. Don’t waste this time, just cut to the chase and be up front about how much sugar you are eating. If you have a breakout that seems “unexplainable,” go back in time and see if you can discover how you might have eaten something incidentally that could have caused your skin to erupt, even if it is just a slight breakout.

Do you add anything to your coffee or tea? Some sugar substitutes can have the same effect on your skin as table sugar.

Do you use non-dairy creamer? The first ingredient is corn syrup solids (sugar) and the second ingredient is hydrogenated soybean and/or canola oil (both of these are the bad kind of omega-6 fatty acids). If you are using a non-dairy creamer to avoid the fat of regular half and half cream, or maybe you can’t have dairy products, just know you are consuming “hidden” sugar, among other things.

Do you eat yogurt? Yogurt with fruit already added contains a lot of sugar. Yogurt in and of itself has natural sugars in it, but if you want something added to plain yogurt, add your own fruit like bananas or apples. This way you won’t get all the added sugar except the most natural kind: fructose from fresh fruit. To get an idea of how much more sugar the fruit-added yogurt has, look at the same brand’s plain yogurt to see how much lactose (milk sugar) is in that. Then compare to your fruity yogurt and you’ll see how many more sugar grams you will be spared if you simply purchase plain yogurt and add your favorite fruit to it.

What about muffins? Every time I walk into a coffee shop, I am amazed at all the “cake” they are selling. All of those muffins and croissants are loaded with sugar—hidden and obvious. If you partake in these types of breakfast foods, you are essentially having a piece of cake with your coffee. Non-fat? Usually non-fat foods are extremely high in sugar.

Japanese rice cracker snacks are salty-tasting snack crackers that are loaded with sugar, even though it doesn’t seem like they would be (and they don’t taste very sweet). The first part of the ingredient list goes like this:

  • sweet rice
  • sugar
  • soy and tamari sauce
  • salt
  • sweet rice wine
  • corn syrup
  • natural wasabi snack seasoning [that has sugar and dextrose in its makeup]
Further down the list, sugar and corn starch are mentioned again. As you can see, this is a very high-sugar snack. In fact for a 1/2 cup serving it contains 8 grams of sugar, which is a lot. I know this because I love these little crackers but every time I would eat them, my blood sugar would get wonky and sometimes I’d get a small breakout. Ingredient lists are there for a reason, and I’m so glad we have them!

Ketchup contains tomato concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, distilled vinegar, salt, natural flavors. In other words: tomato, sugar, sugar, vinegar, salt, and possible sugar. This seemingly harmless condiment can add lots of extra sugar grams to your daily diet—if you eat ketchup with any frequency.

Propel® Fitness Water is, to me, an example of sugar water. The first three ingredients are water,  sucrose syrup, and natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors. (“Natural flavors.” What’s in that?) The amount of sugar—by grams—looks incidental; this 8 ounce drink has only 4 grams of sugar. But considering you are drinking “water,” this seems like an easy (and unnecessary) way to get a lot of ancillary sugar in your daily diet.

Protein bars are very close to regular candy bars in terms of their sugar content. Even though you are getting better ingredients overall, you still need to look at the sugar grams on the package. Protein bars may make a good meal replacement once in a while, but if you are having problems with your skin and you eat these bars regularly, perhaps you need to rethink their health value for you.

If you are taking Tums® to supplement your diet with calcium, or for whatever reason, have you ever looked at the ingredients? Sucrose [sugar], calcium carbonate, corn starch [sugar], talc, mineral oil, natural and artificial flavors [no doubt containing sugar], adipic acid, sodium polyphosphate, plus various color additives. As you can see, when you eat Tums, you are essentially eating candy, and is Tums really a good calcium supplement substitute? I include it here because one of my clients who was having problems with small, but continual breakouts, was an avid Tums taker. It took a long time to figure out she was getting sugar from this source. I recommended finding alternative ways to get more calcium in her diet.

I don’t eat a lot of junk food, but I like to have crunchy munchies every now and then. One day I chose to get some baked potato chips because they are healthier than fried chips, they contain less fat, and they are crunchy. At the grocery store I neglected to check to see if there was sugar in the ingredient list. Believe it or not, just a few short hours after I ate those chips, my skin broke out a little! I was disappointed to find that these chips are yet another product I wouldn’t be able to eat due to their sugar content. The possibility of breaking out by eating them offsets the pleasure in crunching down on these chips. The ingredients include dehydrated potatoes, modified food starch, sugar, corn oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, leavening (monocalcium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate), and dextrose.

Soy milk is my favorite example of a product that you don’t think of as being sugar-laddened. Soybeans, soaked, ground fine and strained, produce a fluid called soybean milk, which many people consider a good, healthy substitute for cow’s milk. Plain, unfortified soymilk is an excellent source of high quality protein and B-vitamins. Soymilk is most commonly found in aseptic containers (nonrefrigerated, shelf stable), but also can be found in quart and half gallon containers in the dairy  case at the supermarket. Soymilk is also sold as a powder, which must be mixed with water.
I looked at all the soy milk I could find on the market and morphed their basic ingredient lists (they all have very similar ingredients) to prove to you nonbelievers that soy milk is loaded with sugar. Please note all of the following are ingredients for plain or original soy milks, not the kind containing added flavors. Purified water, organic soybeans, naturally malted corn and barley extract, Job’s tears, organic barley, Kombu seaweed, sea salt. If you read an earlier post, Sugar by many other names (see below), you will find malted barley and, short of finding malted corn, it lists “malts (any)” as being another form of sugar.

Recently, at a specialty store, I did find unsweetened soy milk. Its only ingredients are filtered water and whole organic soybeans. If you drink soy milk, I highly recommend switching to the unsweetened variety, although my guess is that it tastes horrible!

Rice milk doesn’t seem to have added sugar, but on the nutritional facts label it lists the sugar content as 15 grams per serving; four servings per one liter container. Rice milk also has virtually no protein, where soymilk does have a good protein to carbohydrate ratio. Rice milk is almost all carbohydrates. The rice milk I found had these ingredients: purified water, brown rice, sunflower oil, tricalcium phosphate, lecithin, sea salt, vitamins A and D2.

Here’s another personal story to further illustrate my own sugar sensitivities, and perhaps yours. I ordered out from a new Thai restaurant. I usually order chicken and broccoli. The food looked and smelled good, but after the very first bite I could tell there was sugar somewhere in the mix. The broccoli could have been soaked in sugar water (it tasted sweeter than broccoli normally does and, yes, some restaurants do this) or sugar could have been (and probably was) added to the sauce. What a shame. This dish was so sweet that I didn’t want to eat it. I added some tamari sauce to get a saltier taste, but I was still eating a lot of sugar with that meal—a meal that was not dessert.

I remember years ago when I was eating at a popular pizza restaurant, I took one bite of the pizza and couldn’t believe how sweet the dough tasted. I knew I couldn’t eat it. I asked the waitress if they used sugar in the recipe. She checked with the chef and was told they use honey, not sugar. Well, even if that is true, honey is basically the same thing to your skin: sugar.

So if you are eating something that really shouldn’t taste sweet but does, more than likely it has some form of sugar in it. And if you are sensitive to sugar, your skin may react. It may be a small, hardly noticeable reaction, but take note so you can avoid this food in the future or at least know why your skin is broken out. The more aware you become of sugar in your diet, the more aware your taste buds will become.

Don’t discount the fact you may be eating a food that “shouldn’t” be sugar-laddened, but is. This is especially important if and when you are trying to figure out why your skin is breaking out. Perhaps you don’t eat a lot (or any) obvious sugar, but that doesn’t mean sugar isn’t creeping into your life. Start reading labels of the foods you have at home, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are eating out. Find out if there is sugar in your prepared foods and ask for them to omit this problem-causing ingredient—at least in your “regular,” non-dessert foods.

For more information, see:
HOT TIP: Do you have kids? Or perhaps you work at an office where there is candy laying around, like M&Ms® or another kind of bite-sized sweet? Try putting out baby carrots or cherry tomatoes or the soy product, edamame. They are healthy snack foods that don’t contain artificial sugars.