Sugar by Another Name

In an earlier post, ‘The New Year’s Sugar Resolution,” we covered the detrimental effects of sugar, and recommended healthier menu choices.  Many of you are probably already mindful of your sugar intake and have begun cutting back on “carbs.”

Here’s the thing: sugar in our modern food supply is super sneaky. Because it’s in so many processed foods and labeled under different names, you might easily fail to recognize it as sugar.

Food labels list a variant of names for types of sugar. To name a few:Sugar

Cane sugar
Corn syrup
Crystalline fructose
Evaporated cane juice
High-fructose corn syrup
Agave nectar
Malt syrup
Raw sugar

In candy, cakes and ice cream, you expect to find sugar; but a typical bottle of spaghetti sauce has 12 grams of sugar per half cup and barbeque sauce has 15 grams per two tablespoons!

Food manufacturers have the consumer hooked on a cocktail of sugar, salt and bad fat. To assist the aware, super sleuthing Mom and Dad in their reading of food labels; let’s take a look at the different types of sugar in the effort to make better nutrition choices.

Sugar is the generalized name for sweeteners from many sources. All are carbohydrates and are most commonly monosaccharides or disaccharides, depending on their chemical structure.

Monosaccharides are simple sugars.

Glucose is a natural chemical found in plants and plant juices. Processors create a Glucose syrup manufactured from starch for use in candies, baked goods and processed foods.

Fructose, or ‘fruit sugar’, is the sweetest of sugars and found naturally in fruits, cane sugar, some root vegetables and honey. It is one of the components of common table sugar. It is perhaps the most commonly used sugar in a variety of processed food products.

Disaccharides are all ‘compound sugars’, formed by two monosaccharide molecules.

Sucrose is formed by a combination of a molecule of glucose and fructose. Sucrose is found in commercial table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets.

Maltose is formed when certain grains, most commonly malt, germinate. It is formed by two molecules of glucose; the most recognizable Maltose is malt syrup.

Lactose is a sugar naturally occurring in milk. It is formed by a molecule of galactose and a molecule of glucose. During digestion, these molecules are broken down by the digestive enzyme, Lactase. Many adults lose this Lactase enzyme for reason unknown, hence ‘Lactose intolerance.

Brown and white sugars, even raw sugars, have exactly the same impact on blood sugar, however the unrefined sugars are a better choice as they may contain more minerals and nutrients and certainly less chemicals than highly refined white sugar.

Sugar Shock

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the debate raging over high fructose corn syrup. Since its introduction into the processed food market, obesity rates have skyrocketed.

Manufactured from corn, the processing separates the naturally found glucose and fructose. When consumed, fructose heads straight for the liver, literally switching on fat production, called lipogenesis.

This creates “fatty liver,” pre Type II diabetes and a host of other health issues. Critically, sugar is chemically addictive to the brain. Bottom line? Purge your pantry of all ingredients containing high fructose corn syrup and avoid it wherever possible.

The Great Imposter

A sugar touted as being a healthy alternative is Agave nectar, unfortunately is has exactly the same impact on the liver as High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Better Choices

Life without sweeteners would be rather bland and a difficult call for the family, however there certainly are better choices! Recommendation: try to select sugar in the most raw, unrefined form possible, and use in moderation.

Unrefined Sugars– Unrefined Cane Juice is the most pure form, not to be confused with the more refined ‘Evaporated Cane Juice’. Sucanat and Rapadura are also better choices as they contain the molasses from the cane and all the nutrients.

Honey– From local sources, “raw,” meaning never heated, unrefined honey is loaded with enzymes and nutrients found in plant pollens. Honey can have the same impact on blood sugar as refined sugars, so use in Honeymoderation

Maple Syrup– The concentrated sap from deciduous trees is brimming with trace minerals and contains 65% sucrose compared to 82% sucrose in table sugar. Look for Grade B maple syrup which is much less refined than Grade A.

Malted Grain Syrups– Made from malted grains, usually barley or brown rice, these sweeteners will not be the same intense sweeteners as table sugar, as they typically comprise 50% maltose, and small amounts of trace minerals.

Sorghum Syrup– Made from sweet sorghum, a grain related to millet, it is high in B Vitamins and iron and similar to maple syrup in sweetness.

Coconut Palm Sugar– Produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm, this is the latest ‘designer sugar’ to hit the health food world. It is minimally processed and brimming with minerals and B-vitamins; however it contains around 70% sucrose and is still sugar, so please use in moderation.

Stevia-Made from the leaf of the stevia plant, this no calorie natural sweetener has been my choice for years. Unfortunately it is also presented in processed form blended with unhealthy sugar partners. Beware: look for true unblended stevia.

What about Artificial Sweeteners?

In an upcoming article, we will cover this issue in detail, exploring artificial sweeteners, chemically called ‘excitotoxins.’ The subject is worthy of our effort because there are so many dangerous side effects to artificial sweeteners.

A Battle worth Fighting

It takes time to ‘sugar detox’ the family but it is a worthy, nutritional effort. As our bodies gradually consume less sugar, our taste for sugar diminishes. Ensure enough protein and good healthy fats at each meal for your family to stay satiated. This is a primary tactic in helping you to win the sugar battle!


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