Sugar, we all know and love it, particularly those of us with an unruly sweet tooth.
I am guilty myself of possessing a hidden stash of sweets, an occasional guilty pleasure.
The secretive manner in which I eat my sugary snacks is proof enough that I am aware of the adverse health effects of consuming these items.
However, what about the food we eat openly and believe to be healthy?
Surprise Healthy Foods High in Sugar
If eaten in high amounts, processed sugar is very capable of inflicting damage to your body.
Fructose in particular, is an incredibly powerful pro-inflammatory agent that can cause premature aging, making one look and feel older than their years.
Sugar also increases the release of insulin while deceasing the sensitivity of receptors for vital hormones.
This additionally speeds up the aging process and makes one at risk for degenerative chronic illnesses, like heart disease.
Furthermore sugar promotes the thick growth of fat cells around vital organs in our bodies, which then increases the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.
However, not all sugars are villains.
The natural fructose found in fruits and vegetables as well as the lactose sugar in milk and dairy products can be part of a balanced diet.
It’s the fiberless, processed foods with high levels of sugar such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup is where the main problem lies.
The sugar content of many food items may not always be apparent as manufacturers attempt to hide the true sugar content of food items by using multiple, varying names for common sugars.
Is your body processing more sugar than it should without you knowing?
10 Surprise High Sugar Foods
Here is our top 10 list of foods that are surprisingly high in sugar:
1. Granola Bars
Advertising gives granola bars an illusion of being a healthy snack.
Slim, fit people are often pictured enjoying a granola bar after a hike in nature or a hard workout.
Contrary to this image granola bars contain a lot of sugar.
In fact if you look at the ingredient list on a granola bar, sugar is likely to be in the top 5, making it nutritionally similar to a candy bar.
Tip: Make your own:
Trail mix – Stir in a combination of nuts, muesli, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate. Easy as pie.
Peanut Butter Granola Bars
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup tahini
- 2 cups honey
- 1 tsp sea salt
Blend above ingredients together completely.
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup almond (coarsely chopped)
- 2 cups coconut
- 2 cups sunflower seeds
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips
- 2 cups rolled oats (toasted and cooled)
- Blend remaining ingredients into previous mixture taking care not to over mix.
- Press dough firmly and evenly in greased pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees.
- Cook on bottom shelf for 15 minutes, spin, and move to the middle rack for and additional 8 minutes.
- Do not overcook, they brown easily.
- Bars should be evenly brown when finished. Remove from oven, cool, cut, and enjoy.
2. Tomato Sauce
One cup of tomato sauce can add up to over 20 grams of sugar.
Due to the fact that most people eat tomato sauce on top of a mound of pasta, a high carb source, this can be an extreme sugar overload.
Tip: Tomato sauce can easily be made from scratch using tomato paste, fresh, or canned tomatoes.
Use caramelized onions or carrots to sweeten sauce and mask the acidity of the tomatoes.
3. Fruit Juice
Although “100 percent juice” and “all natural” sound healthier than their competitors, chances are they are still packed with sugar.
It is true that a portion of this sugar naturally is from the fruit itself, however consuming the fruit whole will provide an added fiber intake.
Tip: If you have a juicer, use it!
Yogurt is praised to be one of the healthiest of foods as it boosts metabolism and increases immunity to illnesses.
However some varieties aid in pushing the daily intake of sugar to the limits.
A heaping 27 grams of sugar is in a 6 ounce container of Yoplait flavored yogurt.
Pick plain or go greek.
Tip: Drizzle honey or use the sweet flavor of blueberries to liven up plain yogurt.
I agree muffins are healthier than opting for a doughnut to compliment a morning cup of coffee but they also contain a good deal of sugar. Even store/ bakery bought bran muffins have around 20 grams of sugar. To avoid this I suggest making your own, there are several recipes that do not require sugar at all and taste the same.
Tip: To sweeten up bland tasting bran muffins add bananas, blueberries, raspberries, mangos…up to you!
6. Canned Fruit
A fair amount of canned fruit is packaged in a sugary syrup which combined with the fruit itself is enough to send one into sugar overload.
Even light syrup has a whopping 32 grams of sugar per one cup serving.
Opt for those canned in natural fruit juice or the real deal.
Tip: Buy fresh fruit, pre-cut, and store in the refrigerator.
This way it’ll always be on hand, absent of added sugar.
For many people a bowl of cereal is the first meal of the day, which can be beneficial to one’s health because of the fiber, but not if it’s pack full of processed sugar.
Claims of being healthy often masks this detail, even select wholesome granola based cereals contain as much as 13 grams of sugar per serving.
This makes them comparable to the cereals obviously loaded with sugar that often tempt us at the supermarket.
To avoid this read nutrition labels, you may be surprised by the difference.
Tip: Purchase basic granola or muesli in the bulk section and make your own breakfast cereal.
This way you can dodge sneaky sugar filled cereals and dress it up to your preference.
Yogurt, fresh fruit, honey….yum!
8. Vitamin Water
Vitamin water contains essential vitamins/ minerals and gives you a boost of energy.
However, don’t be so easily deceived, that extra energy after taking the last drink is a sugar high incognito.
A bottle of Snapple’s Antioxidant Water or Glaceau’s Vitamin Water holds more than 30 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.
You’re better off drinking regular water and taking vitamins to avoid this extra sugar intake. Also it will be much cheaper in the long run.
Tip: If you crave a little flavor in your water infuse with fruit or cucumbers.
9. Fat Free Salad Dressings
Fat free = healthy. Not necessarily and when it comes to salad dressings most companies pump loads of sugar into their products to give them an appetizing taste. Check labels to find a healthy compromise of fat and sugar or make your own dressing.
Tip: Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Combine vinegar, garlic, pepper, salt and whisk together blending completely.
- Beat in olive oil in small amounts, continuing to whisk (or pour all ingredients in a seal tight screw top container and shake.)
*If not using the dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisk or shake before reuse.
Fruit smoothies can be super healthy if prepared in a wholesome fashion.
Be aware of the sugar content of commercially bought smoothies.
Even those prepared with fresh fruit at a restaurant or shop may have added sugar.
To dodge this make smoothies at home where you have control over the ingredients.
Tip: Avocado Smoothie
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 3 tablespoons honey
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
The above foods are only a selected list of the most surprising foods that contain high levels of sugar and unfortunately it doesn’t stop there.
As mindful consumers we should all be knowledgeable about the food we are feeding our bodies.
Also when possible always try and eat food that is as close to it’s original form, your body and wallet will thank you.
(Featured Photo: ruben i.. via flickr/CC Attribution)