Since the launch of our Sleekgeek 30-Day Sugar-Free Challenge, there has been a keen interest from our community in avoiding sources of added sugar in their diets.
While nutrition can be extremely complicated and controversial with different experts giving different opinions on what you should eat to be healthy… Every single one of them will agree that we should be eating less sugar in general.
Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more difficult as up to 74% of packaged foods found in US supermarkets contain some kind of added sugar or sweetener, with South African supermarkets following close behind in their footsteps.
In fact South Africa has been labeled as the fattest country in sub-Saharan Africa, with 61% of its population being overweight or obese (for reference, the global rate of obesity is around 30%).
If you are like us and wish to be more conscious about the foods you eat and in what amounts you eat them, then this list is for you!
50 Different Names for Sugar:
- Agave nectar
- Agave syrup
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Buttered sugar
- Cane sugar
- Cane juice
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Cane juice solids
- Cane juice crystals
- Carob syrup
- Caster sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalline fructose
- Date sugar
- Diatastic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Dehydrated fruit juice
- Fruit juice crystals
- Golden syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Malt syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Maple syrup
- Molasses syrup
- Oat syrup
- Tapioca syrup
- Yellow sugar
How to check if it contains sugar:
The best case scenario is that you are eating nutrient-dense, wholesome, single-ingredient foods such as on our Sleekgeek REBOOT, or by mostly eating more of these Sleekgeek Superfoods. These are things that are not processed into “food-products” and typically do not even have a food label or more than 1 ingredient.
However there are plenty of boxed and packaged foods found in the shops that you might wish to include in your diet while making the best choices possible based on what they contain.
The first thing people normally look at when buying foods is what it says on the front. This is a bad idea though, as marketing companies love appealing to consumers by putting bold words on the front of packaging such as “high in protein“, “rich in vitamins and minerals“, “fat free“, “gluten free“, and so on. Most of the time this doesn’t actually mean much at all and is simply a marketing effort to sell more products. In fact most foods marketed as healthy are often actually exactly the opposite.
Nutrition Facts Label:
The next place that consumers get confused is they look at the nutrition facts label that shows the amount of calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other possible stats such as sodium and cholesterol. This is great for someone trying to eat a low-carb diet, get extra protein, watch their salt intake, and so on, but even then it isn’t always very reliable. These days there are things like zero-calorie sweeteners which are effectively types of sugars that can still play havoc on your body but will not get included in the carbohydrate or calorie count on the label. It’s very easy to think you are buying something healthy based on the nutrition facts label even if you aren’t.
An educated consumer will look beyond the marketing buzzwords and macronutrient/calorie nutrition label, and examine the list of ingredients closely. This will tell you what you are really putting into your body. If you buy a box of orange juice from the shops and the only ingredients is freshly squeezed oranges then that is great, but if it’s a list of 10-15 different ingredients then something is definitely up.
It’s worth knowing that ingredients are listed in decreasing order of their weight within the food. So ingredients at the beginning of the list are typically the largest quantity.
Example using a typical food label: All Gold Apricot Jam
I’m not picking on All Gold at all, it just happened to be the first thing I grabbed.
They do a pretty good job at not putting much buzzwords or making their front label too confusing. All that I really note is “Tastes Real Good!” and “Super Fine”. No big deal.
Turn it around, and their information is pretty cramped. It’s quite intimidating to look at, even if you are used to reading labels. For a first timer it might be extremely confusing.
I’m going to skip the nutritional facts label and go straight to ingredients.
- Glucose (sugar),
- Apricot pulp,
- Cane sugar (sugar),
- Pectin (gelling agent and stabilizer), and
- Acidity Regulator (E330 is citric acid).
So the first things I see is that sugar is the very first ingredient, and it is also listed again later on in a different form. That’s a lot of sugar.
Something really nice about All Gold’s label is that they give a minimum percentage of certain ingredients (like their Apricot jam contains a minimum of 35% apricot pulp). The more you know the better – so thank you All Gold.
With that said, that’s still very scary. Remember how I told you ingredients are listed in decreasing order of their weight within the food? What this means is this Apricot Jam has more glucose (sugar) than Apricots.
Example using an online food label: Woolworths Fanta Orange versus Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
A fantastic thing that companies like Woolworths are doing is they list the nutritional information and ingredients about their products online on their website.
Here is a bottle of Fanta Orange and here is a bottle of 100% Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice. It’s possible these links won’t work sometime in the future once their product database changes, but I’m including screenshots and you can just search for those products on their website and find them quite easily.
As you can see the ingredients list for Fanta Orange is Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel, Citric Acid, Stabilisers, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, “Flavourant”, Ascorbic Acid, Sunset Yellow, and Carmoisine.
That’s quite a long list, with sugar and then caramel (also sugar) making ranking 2nd and 3rd. That’s perhaps not as bad as the jam, but it’s still going to amount to a lot of sugar that you might wish to avoid.
By law they aren’t required to tell you what flavourant they use.
On the otherhand the ingredient list for 100% Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice is just Oranges.
Oranges of course contain some natural sugar in the form of fructose which is why it’s still not a good idea to guzzle down a huge amount of fruit juice each day, but it’s certainly a better choice than something like Fanta Orange in my opinion.
How much sugar is ok?
According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you should eat in a day is:
- 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men.
- 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women.
Keep in mind this is the maximum amount, not the ideal amount. In general, the less added sugar you eat the better off you will be.
If you are lean, healthy, have a good metabolism, tolerate carbohydrates well and have a good level of insulin sensitivity then you can easily get away with a bit of sugar in your diet, even if it’s not ideal. If you are going to consume something sugary and carbohydrate-dense, the best time to do so is after a workout (earn your carbs!).
However, if you are overweight or obese and find yourself struggling to lose weight, addicted to carbohydrate-dense and sugary foods, and are insulin resistant then it would probably be in your best interest to avoid added sugar as much as possible. This is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment – but it is a push in the right direction and something that you should discuss with your medical or healthcare professional should you be concerned by your sugar-consumption or if you are considering making any dramatic changes to your diet while dealing with an existing medical condition.