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Sugar in Foods

Our family loves Ginger Snaps. When we were children, my siblings and I would find all types of creative ways to use the delectable disks. From spicing up a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to adding fire to ice cream, the Ginger Snap had a fixed place in most of our menus. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when, in one of those adult moments, I flipped the box over to see just what caused the Ginger Snap’s appeal. The answer horrified me. How could this be? Is it a mistake on the label or am I possibly misreading it? The snap came from the arch-enemy of dentists: sugar!

I had read the packaging correctly, and unfortunately my days of consuming 10-15 cookies in one sitting had come to an end. Not only was there sugar, there were other forms of sugar disguised in creative names.

As we enter that adult phase of our lives, many of us try to reduce our sugar consumption for personal reasons or under the advice of our medical practitioners. But the desire to cut back on the sweet stuff is made even more difficult because food manufacturers often disguise sugar with legal – yet crafty – labeling. Most often, the list of ingredients on food products begins with the ingredient of greatest quantity and continues in descending order until the final ingredient (of least quantity) is listed. Some manufacturers find ways to list sugar with different names, thereby making it appear as if each sugar is an insignificant part of the product.

Beware! The truth is that, when combined, all these sugar pseudonyms often equal almost half of the ingredients in common food products.

Returning to my Ginger Snaps, I found sugar for sure. Reading further, I found brown sugar, corn syrup, and dextrose. Though labeled differently, in the end they are just various forms of sugar. Naturally, there are some ways to avoid falling into manufacturers’ sweet snares.

First, become aware of the common alternative names for sugar that you will see listed on ingredient lists. These monikers include sugar (obviously), honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, lactose, maple sugar, sorghum syrup, turbinado sugar, caramel, dextrin, fructose, grape sugar, invert sugar, maltose, and molasses.

Second, if you want to ease back on the amount of sugar that you consume in your food and beverages, choose sugar-free options. Sugar free beverages are often indistinguishable from their sugar-laden counterparts. The multitude of sugar substitutes offer another way to cut back on your sugar intake. Most of them are safe, but it’s a good idea to do at least some preliminary research before using them. The FDA regulates food safety, but an overworked and understaffed federal agency can’t catch everything.

Third – and this is only if you can really do without sugar as we commonly consume it – opt for either black strap molasses or Sugar in the Raw. These products are the least processed forms of sugar available, and they retain quite a bit of the nutrients not found in white sugar. As a matter of fact, in order to obtain snowy white sugar, manufacturers wash it an average of seven times, stripping many of the natural nutrients. Raw sugar is usually washed only twice.

Finally, and most effectively, you can just take simple sugar out of your diet. This seemingly extreme measure does not mean you can’t enjoy the great tastes of foods, but you will have to find healthy alternatives to satisfy that sweet tooth.

We still love Ginger Snaps, but we have sought out the similar snacks that use unprocessed sugar or no sugar at all. If we do want to relive the youthful, carefree days, we might slip in four or five of the decadent Ginger Snaps every once in a while.


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