Sugar Hiding in Plain Sight


Hi I’m Dr. Lisa Schwartz.  Today I want to let you in on a little secret.  There may be sugar hiding in your food and you don’t even know it.  Whether you are trying to watch your waistline or just being mindful of consuming more natural and whole foods, you need to know if you are being sabotaged by hidden sugars.


Consuming added sugar in a food can lead to extra calories and an increase in insulin secretion which in some cases increases your risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  So this is important. 


It would be really helpful if food ingredient labels had to say “sugar” when they added sugar, but the truth is that sugar has many, many different names.  And you may not recognize it in spite of your diligent label reading.


In my last post, I talked about processed foods, what they are, and why we should be avoiding them.  One of the big reasons to avoid processed foods is that they contain added salt and sugar.  The salt is pretty easy to spot, especially since labels give the sodium content per serving in the nutrition information.  But knowing if you have extra sugar on the ingredient list can be a little trickier.


That’s because there are many chemical forms of “sugar”.  This slide is just a partial list of some of the chemical and not so chemical names of sugar.  I’ve added a handout that you can download at the bottom of the transcript that gives a whole lot more names.


There is no reason to avoid natural sugars.  You just want to know when a sugar has been added to your food during processing.  When you look at the nutrition information, it will tell you how much sugar is in a serving of that food.  But you can’t tell if that sugar is natural or added unless you look at the ingredient list.


So what are some of the more common processed foods that contain a lot of hidden sugar?  One of the biggest surprises may be low-fat fruit yogurt.  In most low-fat foods, the fat has been replaced by carbohydrates (meaning sugar).  Some of the low-fat fruit yogurts can have as much sugar as a can of soda.


And you might be shocked at how much sugar is in your pasta sauce.  This is where you really need to be reading labels.  Not many of us are going to make our own pasta sauce from scratch so we are stuck with the processed varieties.  Be sure to look for all natural ingredients and no added sugar.  You should be able to find a sauce with 4 gms or so of sugar per serving and that should be from the tomatoes.


What about things like agave and natural maple syrup (not Mrs. Butterworth’s but the real deal).  They are still sugar.  You can’t get all sugar out of your diet, but you should just be aware that even natural sugars count as sugar. Try to limit the quantity and get them in their natural state as minimally processed as possible.


Even “health foods” like granola bars can be real sugar bombs.  Look for added sugar on the label.  If the bar has some protein and fat, the sugar will not be absorbed as quickly.  Still look for lower sugar varieties.


While dried fruit doesn’t have added sugar, most people don’t realize how much sugar you can get in a handful of raisins for example.  You are better off eating the whole fruit with the water content since you will eat it more slowly and the water will help fill you up.


And lastly, I want to mention non-dairy milk like soy or almond milk.  These often have flavors or sugar added because they don’t taste great without those things.  Just be careful what you are buying.  There are non-dairy milks without added sugar and flavoring.


Well, I think you get the picture.  Be sure to read the ingredient list and look for those alternative names for sugar.


If you are interested in more information about breast cancer, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle changes, be sure to visit my website and blog at or subscribe to my You Tube channel at Lisa Schwartz, MD.  Have a fantastic week and I’ll see you next time.

Hidden Sugars Handout


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