Unexpected and Surprising Foods With High Sugar

Updated on December 26th, 2020
Foods High in Sugar

Headline after headline tells us that excessive sugar is doing your health no favors. And when it comes to too much sugar intake, it’s generally added sugar that’s the real issue.

While current federal dietary guidelines suggest that added sugars contribute no more than ten percent of daily calories, studies show that three out of four individuals eat more than that.

If we don’t add sugar to food, we may think we’re in the clear, but several foods that fall outside of the dessert category can be surprisingly rich in added sugar. Processed foods, several of which are not even sweet, account for ninety percent of all the added sugars people eat, according to a study published by BMJ Journal in 2016. 

After all, natural sugars — the ones present in unprocessed, whole foods, including the fructose in lactose or fruit in dairy — supply the body with needed energy in appropriate amounts. They are often packaged besides nutrients such as protein or fiber.

However, added sugars are digested quickly and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, which creates a cascade of metabolically adverse reactions [1]. Excessive intake of added sugars can lead to insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, systemic inflammation, and type 2 diabetes. They are often linked to obesity and overweight [2].

Foods High in Sugar

1. Iced tea

Iced tea is generally flavored with syrup or sweetened with sugar. It’s popular in numerous flavors and forms worldwide, which means the sugar content may vary slightly [4].

Most commercially prepared iced teas will have around 35 grams of sugar per 340-mL (12-ounce) serving. This is about similar to a bottle of Coke. If you like tea, choose iced tea that doesn’t have any sugars added, or pick regular tea.

2. Protein bars

Protein bars are a popular snack. Foods that have protein have been associated with increased fullness feelings, which can assist in weight loss. This has led us to assume that protein bars are a healthy snack.

While there are few healthier protein bars on the market, several contain around 20 grams of added sugar, making their nutritional content the same as that of a candy bar. When selecting a protein bar, read the label and avoid those that are rich in sugar. You can also take high protein food such as yogurt instead.

3. Vitaminwater

Vitamin water is promoted as a healthy drink that contains added minerals and vitamins. However, like many other “health beverages,” Vitamin water comes with a considerable amount of added sugar. Moreover, a bottle of regular Vitamin water typically contains around 30 grams of sugar and 100 calories.

As such, despite all the tall health claims, it’s sensible to avoid Vitamin water as much as possible. You could opt for Vitamin water zero, the sugar-free variant. It’s prepared with artificial sweeteners instead. That said, sparkling water or plain water is a much healthier choice if you’re thirsty.

4. Soda And Packaged Fruit Juices

Nothing can beat devouring whole fruits to get all the nutrients. Packaged fruit juices are low in minerals, fiber, and vitamins. Moreover, they may contain added sugar and artificial colors and flavors.

Research on fruit drinks and juices revealed that over 40% of products contain 19 g of sugar. Fruit punches or sugar-sweetened soda have 150 calories, most of which come from added sugar. Drinking soda and packaged fruit juices invite several lifestyle diseases like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, etc.

Making freshly pressed juice at home could be ideal. You can have it without adding sugar. You can also replace soda with fruit juices or detox drinks.

5. Coffee And Flavored Green Tea  

Green tea has fantastic health benefits. This high-antioxidant, low-caffeine drink can combat disease and restore your health. Several flavored green teas have also gained a reputation due to their sweet taste and unique flavor.

But guess what? They contain artificial sweeteners and added sugar, both of which could be harmful. Coffee is also a much-loved drink, but adding cream and sugar can make it harmful. Consume black coffee and pure green tea without adding cream and sugar.

6. Sugar-Free Products

We often assume that using sugar-free products is a safe way to avoid sugar. But according to the AHA (American Heart Association), restricting calories by using sugar free-products is not a healthy choice. It can cause multiple health problems, including weight gain.

Sugar-free products contain sugar alcohols, such as mannitol and sorbitol. Though the body cannot completely absorb the sugar alcohols, consuming excessive amounts can lead to digestive issues, ultimately slowing down metabolism and leading to weight gain.

Hence, it is always safer to limit sugar intake. You may also choose natural sugars from whole fruits that are low in glycemic load, high in fiber, and beneficial for weight loss.

7. Tomato Sauce

Grocery-bought tomato sauces in jars are convenient but can be sneaky sugar sources, which are often added to cut tomatoes’ acidic taste and keep jarred sauces fresh longer.

Again, naturally developing sugars aren’t the issue — other added sugars and corn syrup are. And few jarred sauces come with up to 4 g in a half-cup. If you have trouble getting sauces that are free of or low in added sugars, choose a can of plain diced tomatoes rather.

Simply drain the puree, juices, and add your spices to make a quick sugar-free sauce. You might end up making a sauce that you like more than anything you can find on shelves.

8. Snack Bars and Granola

Have you been taking a glorified candy bar for breakfast? Snack bars and granola often sound a heck of a lot healthier than they actually are. Few brands contain up to 11 g of sugar per bar, and you may find white flour in the ingredient list, too.

Evade bars that list sugar in their top 3 ingredients; there are ones out there that are incredibly low if not altogether free of added sugars. You may also consider snacking on a handful of whole nuts and unsweetened or whole dried fruit instead. 

Bottom Line

Added sugars aren’t a mandatory part of your diet. Although modest amounts are okay, they can cause serious harm if eaten in large quantities regularly. The finest way to avoid hidden sugars in your meals is to prepare them at home, so you know precisely what’s in them.

However, if you need to purchase prepackaged food, make sure you check the label to identify any hidden added sugars, particularly when buying foods from this list.

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