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Sources of added sugar sneaking into your body you may not know

Well, these are the obvious culprits. But what about the ketchup you dip into your fries, the sauce you generously drizzle on your salad, or the bread you use to make your sandwich?

None of these foods seem particularly bad for you, but they all have added sugar that can quickly reduce your daily calorie intake. Although organizations like the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting sugar intake, Americans still consume about 17 teaspoons of added sugar (272Trusted Source ). calories) per day. To help keep these sugars from affecting your health or your waistline, we’ve highlighted nearly a dozen different food products that are surprisingly high in added sugars.

Is sugar bad for you?

When you hear the word sugar, you immediately think of sweets, desserts, and sugary drinks. These are called supplementary sugars. You can also consume sugar naturally by eating fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

These foods contain carbohydrates. During digestion, starch is converted into a sugar called glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream and serves as your body’s main source of fuel. Simply put, you need sugar – as long as you get it from the right source.

Eating foods with too much sugar can cause insulin resistance, leaving your body unresponsive to insulin. This triggers a chain of events that leads to high blood sugar. When too much glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas has a hard time pumping out insulin – a hormone that helps cells and tissues use and store glucose – so the sugar in the blood goes somewhere.

Over time, cells become resistant to excess insulin and blood sugar levels continue to rise. This resistance can lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, the pancreas continues to make insulin and sends excess blood sugar to the liver and muscles. The liver can only hold so much glucose, and the rest turns into fat cells and leads to weight gain.

In addition, there is a psychological effect on sugar. When digested, sugar releases dopamine, a chemical that controls how you feel pleasure. It can also increase serotonin production, which can boost your mood. For these reasons, sugar is often viewed as an addictive drug.

What is added sugar?

As the name implies, added sugars are added to foods during the manufacturing process. For example, add sugar to pies or to tea to make a sweet tea.

Most of the sugar Americans consume comes from sucrose, a combination of glucose and fructose, commonly known as table sugar. However, food labels are still confusing, mainly because food manufacturers try to be subtle about added sugars. In other words, foods can still contain added sugars even if they don’t list the word “sugar”.

Here are some common added sugars found on food labels:


Honey. (Photo: Goodnet)

– Treated sugar molecules – fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltose

– Syrup – Rice syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup

– Natural sweetener – Honey, molasses, agave

– Processed fruit sugar – Fruit concentrate, fruit nectar (peach nectar, pear nectar), cane juice

Sugar should make up no more than 10% of your daily calories, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For the average person following a 2,000-calorie diet, that equates to 200 calories or 12 teaspoons of sugar. Added sugars can add up quickly. For example, a 12-ounce can of soft drink can hold up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s pretty much all of your suggested added sugars in one go.

Natural versus added sugar

If you’ve ever bitten a strawberry or ate fresh corn in the summer, the sweetness your taste buds pick up is called natural sugar. The most common natural sugars include fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (found in sprouted grains).

Sugar is sugar, even if it occurs naturally, right? Yes, but context matters. When sugar enters the body, the digestive system treats natural sugars and added sugars as the same and treats them as such.

So while some fruits and vegetables are high in sugar, they also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The structural complexity of these foods results in slower digestion – as opposed to the rapid release of glucose – which leaves you feeling fuller for longer. So you don’t have to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables before you feel satisfied, which helps keep your sugar intake under control.

On the other hand, added sugars do not contain nutrients or are beneficial to the diet to slow down digestion. This is why they are often referred to as empty calories and it is one reason why you can eat half a dozen sugary cookies and not feel satisfied.

Foods with added sugar

A few grams of added sugar may not seem like much, but it can add up quickly because there are four calories in a gram. Be aware of these hidden sugars in your meals!


Ketchup, salad dressing and barbecue sauce are the biggest offenders here. In each variety, sugar is added during the manufacturing process for flavor and balance. Think of it this way: Vinegar is one of the main ingredients in ketchup, marinades, and barbecue sauces, and the sweetness is one way to keep the acidity from getting too strong.

The source of added sugar sneaking into the body you may not know - Photo 3.

(Artwork: istock)

A tablespoon of any of these condiments can have several grams of sugar, with a teaspoon or more added when eating burgers and fries. So look for condiments that are low in sugar or with no added sugar.


Despite the long list of ingredients listed on packaged bread, only three are simple to make – flour, water, and leavening agent (natural sourdough or yeast). However, like many packaged goods, sugar and salt are added to breads to improve their taste.

And this also applies to white bread. In fact, making a sandwich with two slices of wholemeal bread will add 6 grams of sugar to your meal. Be careful with labels, as some organic breads may sound good to you, but adding cane sugar and molasses adds 8 grams of sugar to two slices of bread.

Products without fat

Fat-free and low-fat products are among the biggest culprits when it comes to added sugar. Fat equals flavor, so food manufacturers need to infuse more flavor when they remove fat from their products. Solution? Add sugar to improve taste. For example, one cup of fat-free yogurt has 18 grams of added sugar.

Marinara sauce

Depending on the brand, ½ cup of store-bought marinara sauce contains up to 4 to 5 grams of added sugar. Manufacturers add sugar to reduce the acidity from tomatoes. However, tomatoes have enough natural sugars to provide sweetness. When shopping, look for brands with little or no added sugar. Not all ketchup brands are guilty of adding sugar, so be sure to check the label.


Sources of added sugar sneaking into the body you may not know - Photo 4.

Particularly dairy products have natural sugars from lactose. Plus, many yogurt brands add sugar to improve flavor – just ⅔ cup of vanilla yogurt adds 17 grams of sugar. Ideally, you should choose unsweetened whole cream yogurt.


Between the added sugar from the pizza dough and the marinara sauce, one slice of pizza can contain several grams of sugar. The amount of added sugar can be even higher if the pizza contains pepperoni or hot dogs. These processed meats often have added sugar in the manufacturing process.

Peanut butter

In theory, peanut butter should have one ingredient – dry roasted peanuts (sea salt can be added). In fact, many commercial jars of peanut butter contain several grams of sugar to improve flavor. Be wary of any sugar substitutes on the ingredient list.

Breakfast cereals

The obvious sources of added sugar are sugary cereals that kids love to eat. But even so-called healthier options like raisin bran (9 grams of added sugar per cup) or bran flour (6 grams of added sugar per cup) have added sugars that can be bad for you. Whole oatmeal is a healthier breakfast substitute. You can even sprinkle on fresh fruit, such as strawberries, for a natural sweetness.

The source of added sugar sneaking into the body you may not know - Photo 5.

(Photo: Healthy Food Guider)

dried fruits

While it may seem harmless, many dried fruits contain added sugar to make them taste better. Dried cranberries are a perfect example. They are too sour by themselves, so sugar is added to make them more palatable. Dehydrated fruit also takes away moisture, making each piece of fruit smaller than fresh fruit. This makes it easier to overeat and increase your sugar intake.

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