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Sugar - How much are you eating?
By: Ian Webb

The damage sugar causes is multifaceted. There is a psychological component to the damage sugar does as well as the obvious (and not so obvious) physical ones. Let's look at sugar in all its forms and also how to avoid eating it unnecessarily.

There are many different types of sugar. Your body sees sugar as sugar so while food companies have the ability to prime products by labelling them differently or using variations of an ingredient, sugar is sugar to your body. This includes fruit sugar but the saving grace of sugar in a piece of fruit is that its bound with fibre and nutrients which provides a valuable source of energy (in measured doses) whereas sugar once removed from the fruit (such as fruit juice concentrate, a popular choice in kids food products) is just plain old nasty SUGAR to your poor old body and immune system. Dried fruit is equally bad as it is a concentrated piece of fruit that is small and easy to overeat and is often with added sugar (think apricots, cranberries). To start, below is a list of the many different forms of sugar you will find in your regular supermarket and, to be fair, health food store, food stuffs.

"ose" Sugars (some of which occur naturally in foods, such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit):
Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Glucose, Lactose, Levulose, Maltose, Saccharose, Sucrose, Xylose

"ol" sugars: the sugar alcohols which are lower in calories and don't promote quite the same insulin response as other sugar but can cause gas, boating and diarrhoea in excessive consumption.
Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol,

Other Sugars include:
Agave Syrup, Barley Malt, Beet Sugar, Brown Sugar, Cane Sugar, Caramel Coconut Sugar, Confectionary Sugar, Corn Sugar, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Dextrin, Ethyl- Maltol, Fruit Juice, Fruit Juice Concentrate, Glucose Solids, Golden Syrup, Granulated Sugar, Grape Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Icing Sugar, Invert Sugar, Isomalt, Malt Syrup, Maltodextrin, Maple Sugar, Maple Syrup, Molasses, Muscovado Sugar, Panocha, Raw Sugar, Rice Syrup, Sorghum, Treacle, Turbinado Sugar.

There are more, but you get the picture. The question is, are "natural" sugars (honey, coconut) at least better for you nutritionally than refined, ultra processed sugar? The quick answer is no, not really. Any nutritional variations are minimal at most and not worth any accolade. Raw sugar or organic sugar might have less pesticides or be incrementally higher in some sort of mineral content but it's not worth the mention. Why eat black strap molasses for iron when you could eat spinach, watermelon or a humble steak?

So when you're reading the labels in the supermarket, be discerning. No matter how they sugar coat it, sugar is sugar. Check for three or four different types of sugar in the same product and ask yourself why they have done this? Could it possibly be to pack in as much sugar in order to make it adorably addictive yet make it appear natural and healthy? And realise that mostly, food does not need added sugar. If you were to completely eliminate sugar and salt from your diet for a month you would be amazed at how your fruits and vegetables tasted, so sweet and salty all of their own accord. Our taste buds have been steamrolled with so much refined sugar that we can't even tell what is naturally delicious anymore.

So there you have it, sugar in many of its forms and a prime example of it hidden in foods touted as healthy. Want to lose weight? Stop eating food out of packets! Sugar makes you fat.

Added: 05-07-2013