Reading food labels is so important. You may hear this over and over again, largely because it’s so true. Aiming for foods with ingredients that you are familiar with (or can even pronounce) is a sure fire way to stay on track if you are trying to maintain a clean diet.
Americans on average are eating more than enough added sugars, which can lead to obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. What is more alarming you may be consuming sugar and not even know it. “Many “additives” can influence blood glucose levels,” shares Samantha Bartholomew, MS, RD of Fresh Communications. If you are not reading labels and not familiar with certain ingredients you can easily be doubling up your regular intake with everyday foods like bread, pastas and condiments.
Below you will find a list of 7 chemicals also known as sugar and often found in packaged foods. Bartholomew weighs in to help you make an informed decision the next time you are out food shopping.
Dextrin is natural fiber and can assist the body in removing waste. It can help lower the glycemic level that comes with a high-carbohydrate meal. This is because it’s a water-soluble carbohydrate. Often in packaged foods as a natural binding agent.
This is usually found in baking products as a sweetener. Because it’s a simple sugar, the body can quickly turn this into an energy source. However it can raise blood sugar easily and often lack any nutritional value. This is a type of sugar is added to processed foods and can affect blood glucose levels. You will often find dextrose in candy, starchy foods and cookies.
Fructose is found in fruit and honey and can have an effect on the blood sugar. Long term use of fructose can result in leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells that regulates appetite and fat storage. However, fructose does have a lower glycemic index. Some natural foods high in fructose are watermelon, apples, asparagus, peas and zucchini. Packaged foods with fructose include canned fruit, candy, soda, and sweetened yogurt.
This is a type of sugar you get from food full of carbohydrates, including rice, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. As these foods travel through the bloodstream to your cells, they turn into blood glucose or blood sugar. Other sources of glucose can come from protein and fats.
On average a normal sugar level is 140mg/dL two hours after consuming food. But, those dealing with diabetes will tend to have a higher glucose level. They should beware of regularly consuming foods that can spike blood sugar. Long term, this can cause strokes, heart attacks, a weakened immune system, poor circulation, and vision loss or blindness.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
HFCS is an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. “[It’s] a sweetener made from corn starch, often used to sweeten processed foods and can affect blood glucose levels,” says Bartholomew. This type of sweetener can easily be converted into fat, increasing the likelihood of obesity. Long term, its use can lead to a fatty liver, which puts you at higher risk of liver disease. Excessive consumption of HFCS can also lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
This is a common additive in many processed foods, shares Bartholomew. Maltodextrin is a white powder derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. It’s typically added to improve the flavor or shelf life of the product. It does have a high glycemic index that can cause a spike in blood glucose levels, so it should only be consumed in small amounts and modestly for those that have diabetes.
Sucrose is a common sugar that is difficult for the body to absorb because it needs to be broken down first. “A type of sugar, table sugar, in almost everything we eat, can affect blood glucose,” explains Bartholomew. An example of foods high in sucrose include cake frosting, milkshakes, cookies, fast foods, some cereals, and many fruits. This is why it’s so important to consume these types of foods in moderation.
The biggest takeaway is to be self vigilant when selecting foods for your home and dining out. Once the awareness is there, making smart food choices will become less daunting, more seamless, and a part of your lifestyle.