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Be the detective of your food

Walk Jane’s Talk

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Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:30 am

It is pretty obvious that if you are sitting in front of the TV downing soda and chocolates that you are taking on a load of sugar. But what about if you are sipping on a white wine and partaking of fruit yogurt, a big sandwich with  dressing or a bowl of cereal? Those all sound like pretty healthy choices, right?

Sugar has 15 calories per teaspoon. That doesn’t seem like much, but when it is hidden in manufactured food, it adds up in a hurry. It also sends your blood sugar out of control.

Most consumers know that the first item listed on a package or container is the most abundant ingredient in the food product.

Did you know that food manufacturers use more than 55 different names for sugar just to throw you off the trail?

Here are some of the other names for sugar: barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, diastase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar and yellow sugar.

Here are some foods where sugar is found in very high amounts. Processed tomatoes are very acidic. Ketchup, tomato sauce or tomato paste contains high levels of sugar to cut the acid. White wines add sugar to disguise the acidity of the grapes.

Salad dressings can be both fat and sugar heavy. The best option is to go for very simple dressings such as olive oil with vinegar or lemon. Many of the low-fat varieties of dressing add a load of sugar as a flavor enhancer.

Yogurt can be a great food — full of good probiotics and calcium — but if it is sweetened or fruit “flavored” then that great food just elevated your blood sugar into the danger zone. You can mix your own fresh fruit into yogurt instead.

Chocolate has many health benefits, including psychological ones. However, chocolate that is lower than 80 percent cocoa is rounded out with milk and sugar.  A daily one-ounce serving of dark chocolate is a great low-calorie, heart healthy treat, full of flavonoids and polyphenols.

Bread, even fibrous whole wheat or other nutritious kinds, has added sugar. Some of it is necessary to make the yeast rise, but some of it is there for taste and to help the bread brown up.

Granola seems like a healthy alternative to sugar-laden breakfast cereals but, it still has a lot of sugar. A better choice is muesli, which is made with nuts and oatmeal just like granola, but has dried fruit to sweeten it rather than honey.

Check fruit. If it is canned, you need to have it packed in juice, not syrup. Even frozen fruit can have added sugar.  

Finally, peanut butter can have its No. 1 ingredient as sugar and many brands have sugar as the second most abundant ingredient. Buy “no sugar added.”

Here are a few sugar substitutes that do not raise your blood sugar and are not harmful. Stevia products work well in drinks and sprinkled over other foods such as cereals and fruit.

Sugar alcohol such as xylitol or sorbitol are useful for chewing gum (they actually stop tooth decay) and good for tea and coffee.

Agave nectar is from a cactus, the same one as they use to make tequila. It is good in tea and coffee but it has a lot of calories — even more than sugar and it has high fructose content. So, it is a sweetener that has some drawbacks.

Artificial sweeteners are just that — they are artificial.

It’s up to you of course, but if I am eating something I’d like it to be as real and nutritious as possible.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., C.N.A., can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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