In our evolution, we developed a taste for sugar because it helped us to identify the nutritious fruits, and it motivated us to seek them. More recently, we learned to refine sugar, separating it from the vital nutrients. Sugar gets added to foods for its flavor, and for color, texture, filler, binding, and expansion of shelf life. Sugar gets added to everything. It is in candy and desserts, obviously, but is also in salads, baked goods, salty snacks, drinks, soups, sauces, and meats.
The fabled sweet tooth is a real thing. When you consume sugar, you tend to want more of it. When you quit sugar, you will eventually find that you don't need it. The advice to consume in moderation is disingenuous. It keeps you hooked.
Fruits and vegetables naturally contain sugars, but they bind the sugars to fiber and other components that make them healthy to eat. Refining strips away everything that makes sugar healthy for us. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams for men, and 25 grams for women. Too much sugar is bad, but what is the minimum? How much processed sugar do you need to stay healthy? The answer is zero.
So if you make your meals from fresh fruits and vegetables, and if you do not add sugar, then it is easy to have a healthy diet. It is much more difficult when we buy processed foods. That is why it is important to read the ingredient labels to avoid consuming sugar. You should read the label of every item of processed food that you buy. If it contains sugar, put it back on the shelf.
The thing that makes this difficult is that some of the manufacturers are aware that you want to avoid sweetened foods, and so they employ synonyms that let them keep the advantages they get from adding sugar and still complete sales to people who are trying to avoid it.
Organic cane crystals looks like it should be healthy, but it is not. Cane crystals is a deceptive name for sugar. Generally, an ingredient that is labelled organic is better for you than one that is not, but if the ingredient is bad for you, the organic label does not make it good for you. The same goes for concentrated, natural, plant-based, pure, raw, real, 100%, and less than 1%.
A product that claims to be made with real fruit might contain white grape juice, which is sugar water, which is not healthy. We have been taught that juices are healthy. They are not. They are mostly just sugar water. Many of the components that make fruits healthy are removed or destroyed by juicing.
The complete list of names for sugar is long, and gets longer as the food industry devises tricks to get around the food labelling laws. But there are some patterns that can help you that are easy to remember.
Reject all products containing any of these ingredients, even if they are combined with words that might seem beneficial:
Reject chemical additives that contain these fragments:
There are many more sugary additives that are not rejected by these patterns, but they are usually combined with additives that this list does reject.
There are six ingredients that are rejected by these patterns that are exceptions. You can buy these:
Avoid artificial sweeteners such as:
The artificial sweeteners do not mess with your blood sugar levels like the sugars do, but they have other problems. They sustain your sweet tooth, so you are likely to continue to seek out sweetness. Their tastes alert the body to prepare for a sugar crisis that doesn't come. That can leave you in a hungry state. People consuming diet beverages tend to gain weight. And finally, while the human system seems to tolerate these chemicals, your gut microbiome might not.
As you go foraging in the supermarket, you will be shocked at the quantity and variety of sweetened products, particularly in products that you do not think of as sweetened. But keep looking, there are healthy products out there for you. Most of them are in the produce department: fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat healthy. Get off the junk.