A sugar by any other name
By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik
I’m a healthy person. I work out, eat my veggies, take time to focus on soulful experiences and do all of the other things healthy people are supposed to do.
However, that doesn’t mean I always make stellar decisions. In fact, I have been known to let my sweet tooth get the best of me on more than one occasion. A handful of chocolate chips here, a couple bites of gluten-free cake there – and before I know it, all of those simple “tastes” of something(s) can add up to something rather big.
“Sugar is an incredibly addictive drug that many of us … are hooked on,” said Jennifer Fugo, author of “The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank” and founder of Gluten Free School (glutenfreeschool.com), an online education destination for gluten-sensitive individuals. “No matter whether it was introduced at childhood or snuck in under the radar at one stressful point in your life, sugar has its claws in you and doesn’t plan on letting go without putting up a good fight.”
The truth is, sugar is quite the super sleuth. With more than 40 names to hide behind on food labels, sugar does a great job at camouflaging its name to sound like anything but sugar. Here are a few examples of ingredients that are sugar by another name:
high-fructose corn syrup
That’s quite the list, huh? That’s also not counting all of the other sugars that are made to sound like health foods, like date sugar, beet sugar and honey. Sure, they might be better for you than the white stuff, but they are still sugar in all its glory.
“Getting the sugar out of your diet involves more than simply passing up the dessert,” wrote Anne Louise Gittleman, author of “Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Any Diet.” “Sugar is pervasive in our society, not only in obvious forms such as cookies, cakes and candy, but in just about any other food you can think of. From packaged meats to soups to commercial salt, sugar is in there. It’s even hidden in such non-food items as vitamin and mineral supplements, aspirin, prescription and over-the-counter drugs and various cosmetics. Cutting down on sugar has to involve a multifaceted approach. It requires developing a ‘sugar savvy’ – knowing where to watch out for sugar and how to creatively and healthfully live without it.”
That’s not to say a little sugar here and there is a bad thing, however. After all, we are all human. The key is simply something we’ve heard time and time again – moderation. In fact, keeping a bird’s eye view on sugar is exactly what I begin to do when I feel like my sugar habit has spun out of control. It’s always a shocking realization when I calculate just how often those “little bites” have been making their way into my mouth.
Here’s the nasty truth about sugar: It creates a false energy that causes our bodies to speed – much like they will when under the influence of a drug – and to very quickly crash. The worst part? That crash causes our bodies to want the drug – sugar – again, creating an endless cycle.
“Healthy flora are bacteria living in and on you that do what seems like a lot of magic in your digestive system,” Fugo said. “The thing is, it’s always a balancing act of nurturing those good bacteria and keeping the bad bacteria and yeast – aka candida – at bay. The good bacteria are a critical part of our digestive and immune systems. A serious problem arises when you overeat junk food and sugar because you’re literally feeding the bad guys. Your diet helps to dictate a specific environment in your belly that is not friendly to the bacteria you really want there. Thus, the good guys begin to die off, making way for the troublemakers.”
The truth is this: Sugar is found in more things than you and I could ever care to admit. It’s the creeper that lurks in our cupcakes and the stealthy sleuth that hides in the most seemingly healthy of food choices, like fruit. Yes, it’s just fine to enjoy it in moderation. Instead, the problem is when sugar becomes a daily part of our lives, wrapping its sweet little arms around our food decisions and wreaking no less terror than an overtired two year old.
What about you? What’s your favorite trick for nixing sugar? Send me an email!
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Find Caroline’s book at sincerelycaroline.com/books. Caroline can be reached at