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Healthy Habits: Cut Back on Refined Sugars

Many doctors, nutritionists, and researchers consider refined sugar a major nemesis of American health. Nevertheless, sugar is, hands down, America's number one food additive. Would you believe that we consume ten times more of it than we do all the other 2,600 or so food additives put together?! The one exception is salt, but even it runs a very distant second.1

Every year the typical American consumes between 120 and 150 pounds of refined sugar. 2 That translates to over one-third of a pound a day, 600-plus calories of teeth-rotting, health-destroying sweetness. Sort of a contradiction in terms.

Even if you don't eat sweets, the amount of refined sugar you may be consuming would no doubt shock you. Over two-thirds of the refined sugar used in this country is added to manufactured food products. In other words, it's hidden in many of the things we buy at the supermarket. For instance, did you know that a tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar?3 Stuff like breads, soups, cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato juice, and a host of other products all contain sugar. This doesn't even take into account the obvious sugary products like candies, cakes, ice cream, cookies, doughnuts, and soda pop.

Even if you are careful about reading labels, it's difficult to tell just how much refined sugar you're actually getting. It comes in many different forms, several of which might be contained in a single product. Terms like sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, and lactose may mean something to a scientist (or "scientose"), but how are average laypeople supposed to understand what they're putting into their mouths?

And what about all those other products that we use to sweeten our food? Are molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and honey just as bad for your health as white sugar?

Obviously, there are many questions that arise in any discussion about sugars and sweeteners. Let's pick off a few and see if we can't get some understanding.

What Are the Various Forms of Sugars?
More commonly known as white, refined table sugar, it comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, and sugar maples, and is the most widely used form of sugar. The following is a list of products in the sucrose family:4

White sugar 99.9 percent sucrose
Turbinado sugar 99 percent sucrose
Brown sugar 96 percent sucrose
Maple sugar 95-98 percent sucrose
Maple syrup 65 percent sucrose
50-70 percent sucrose

Also known as levulose, fructose is found naturally in fruits and honey. It can also be commercially refined from corn, sugar beets, and sugar cane. Currently, the most popular form of refined fructose is corn syrup, which is added to hundreds of products. Since it is about 70 percent sweeter than sucrose,5 many food manufacturers now use refined fructose to replace refined sucrose in their products – same sweetness, fewer calories.

This form of sugar results from "malting" certain grains together with natural enzymes. Two of the most popular forms are barley malt and brown rice syrup. Barley malt is made by sprouting barley, drying it, then mixing it with water and cooking it into a syrup. Brown rice syrup is made by adding dried sprouted barley to cooked rice. After the rice is cultured, it is strained and cooked to produce a syrup. Maltose is about one-third as sweet as sucrose.6

Also known as dextrose, glucose is found naturally in fruit, honey, carob, and corn, or may also be found in refined form. It is about two-thirds as sweet as sucrose.7 Glucose is also the form that all sugars are broken down to by our bodies to be utilized for energy.

(Special note: Lactose is the form of sugar found in milk. Another form of milk sugar is called galactose. These are not consumed in sugar form, but as part of milk products. Therefore, they are not usually considered food additives.)


From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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