By Stephenie Karony

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Watch out for
hidden sugars

Question: I've heard that a lot of common foods consumers don't think of as sugary do contain sugar. Please talk about these foods, as I am trying to cut back on my sugar intake and need all the help I can get.

Answer: We are all aware of the high sugar content in cookies, candy and soda. But there's an increasing number of packaged, canned and frozen foods that also contain sugar. In fact, it's now difficult to find processed foods that don't. It hasn't always been that way; the practice of adding sugar to processed foods is relatively new. Twenty-five years ago sugar wasn't added to peanut butter, ketchup or mayonnaise. Sugar wasn't found in frozen vegetables or canned fruit, and we were able to buy commercial brand fruit and vegetable juices without added sugar.

Let's look at some foods that we don't normally think of as containing sugar -- soup, for example. Some varieties have up to five grams of added sugar. 4.5 grams of sugar equals one level teaspoon, so one can of soup contains a little more than a teaspoon of sugar.

When I refer to sugar I'm including molasses, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose, honey, corn sweeteners, maltose and the like. These substances are all sugar and they all have the same effect on the body.

Condiments and sauces, such as tomato and pasta sauce, ketchup, barbecue and steak sauce, salad dressings, mayonnaise, crudités dips and relish all contain significant amounts of sugar. Most of these are products people don't think they need to use sparingly, so the sugar calories add up really fast.

Breakfast cereals are among the worst culprits in the battle of the sugar bulge. It's no surprise that sugar-frosted flakes are loaded with sugar, an incredible 13 grams, or nearly three teaspoons, per serving. But would you suspect that the so-called "adult cereal" All-Bran contains nine grams of sugar, or two teaspoons, per serving?

NEXT LET'S LOOK at refined grain products. There's sugar in white bread and products such as hamburger buns and hot dog rolls. Foods such as frozen pancakes and waffles contain sugar. In fact there's hardly a processed refined flour product that doesn't.

Canned and frozen foods more often than not have sugar in them. You ask why manufacturers add sugar to their product? Because Americans are hooked on sugar, salt and fat. If a food's not sweet or salty, or if it doesn't taste like fat, most Americans believe it has no taste.

To prove my point, take fruit-filled yogurt. The only reason Americans even eat yogurt is because it tastes so much like a dessert. The most popular brand of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Yuck!

Don't be fooled by the no-fat or low-fat labeling trick. No-fat on a label is often a tip off that the product has a high sugar content. Please learn to read labels carefully.

I'm not suggesting that we eliminate sugar from our diet. What I am recommending is that we cut down on the amount we eat. Adult onset diabetes is out of control in this country, as is the growing obesity problem. In light of these facts, wouldn't it be prudent for each one of us to do everything we can to stop the progress of these two life-threatening conditions?

Stephenie Karony is a certified health and fitness instructor,
a personal trainer and author of "Body Shaping With Free Weights.''
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