While sugar is easy to spot in candy, soft drinks and ice cream, it also hides out in foods you might not expect -- including peanut butter, pasta sauce and even bologna! Robert Lustig decodes confusing labels and sugar's many aliases to help determine just how much of that sweet carbohydrate makes its way into our diets.
[Directed by The Tremendousness Collective, narrated by Michelle Snow].
Sugar is playing hide and seek with you. You'd think it would be pretty easy for you to win, considering all the sugar in sodas, ice cream, candy, and big white bags labeled sugar. People get about half of their added sugars from those drinks and treats, so it might seem like sugar is hiding in plain sight, but like someone in the witness protection program, the other half is hidden in places you'd least suspect. Check the ingredients on ketchup, bologna, spaghetti sauce, soy milk, sports drinks, fish sticks, and peanut butter. You'll find sugar hiding in most of those products. In fact, you'll find added sugars in three-quarters of the more than 600,000 items available in grocery stores.
But how is sugar hiding?
Can't you just look on food labels?
It's not that easy. Just like your friend Robert might go by Bob, Robby, Rob, Bobby, or Roberto, added sugar has a lot of aliases. And by a lot, we don't mean five or six, try fifty-six. There's brown rice syrup, barley malt, demerara, Florida Crystals, muscovado, and, of course, high fructose corn syrup, sometimes called HFCS, or corn sugar.
Even sugar's tricky nicknames have nicknames. Grape or apple concentrate has the same effects on your body as its 55 sugary twins. And even though organic evaporated cane juice sounds healthy, when you evaporate it, you get sugar! Chemically speaking, it's all the same. And even trickier, when multiple added types of sugars are used in one type of product, they get buried down in a long list of ingredients, so the sugar content might appear to be okay, but when you add them all together, sugar can be the single biggest ingredient.
Currently, the FDA doesn't suggest a recommended daily limit for sugar, so it's hard to tell if this 65 grams in a bottle of soda is a little or a lot. But the World Health Organization recommends limiting sugar to just 5% of your total calories, or about 25 grams per day. So, 65 grams is well over twice that amount. But just what is sugar?
What's the difference between glucose and fructose? Well, both are carbohydrates with the same chemical composition of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. But they have very different structures and behave quite differently in our bodies. Glucose is the best source of energy for nearly all organisms on Earth. It can be metabolized by all organs in the body.
Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized primarily in the liver, and when your liver gets overloaded with sweet, sweet fructose, the excess is metabolized to fat. Fresh fruits actually contain fructose, but it's naturally occurring and doesn't cause an overload because the fiber in fruit slows its absorption. This gives your liver the time it needs to do its job. It's sugar that makes cookies chewy and candy crunchy. It even turns bread crust a beautiful, golden brown. It's also a great preservative; it doesn't spoil or evaporate, so the foods it's added to are easier to store and ship long distances and tend to be cheaper. That's why sugar is hiding everywhere.
Actually, it might be easier to list the foods that added sugar isn't hiding in, things like: vegetables, eggs, meats, fish, fruit, raw nuts, even your kitchen sink. Simply choosing water over soda, juices, and sports drinks is a great way to avoid hidden added sugar. At the very least, try to pay attention to food labels, so you can keep your sugar intake at a healthy level. Because in this game of hide and seek, every time you don't find added sugar, you win!