Our foodfacts.com research indicates that, this past summer, the American Heart Association (AHA) raised the alarm over an unusual suspect among the many known risk factors for stroke and heart disease: hidden sugar.
Unlike the sugars that occur naturally in fruit and vegetables, according to the AHA, the less obvious varieties, which are increasingly finding their way into sauces, snacks, dairy products and soft drinks, have become at least partially responsible for our escalating rates of obesity and soaring blood pressure and triglyceride levels. As a result, the AHA now recommends no more than six teaspoons’ worth of added sugar from prepared foods per day for women. But good luck finding it.
High-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin
Often depicted as the axis of evil of added sweeteners, these saccharides are chemically processed to increase shelf life, making them the darlings of soft drink and processed food manufacturers. High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is modified corn fructose, in which enzymes have been added to the syrup, making it sweeter and cheaper than sugar. Dextrose is mostly derived from fruit, corn and honey while maltodextrin is from cornstarch, potato and rice. Both sugars are also cheap, plentiful and often genetically modified.
Plus: Most, particularly HFCS, don’t cause your blood sugar to skyrocket quite as fast as white sugar.
Minus: Because the stuff is everywhere, it’s becoming one of our most significant sources of sugar. Some research also attributes high-fructose diets to increasing triglyceride levels—the form of fat in the bloodstream—which can be a risk for heart disease and stroke.
Sucrose, or table sugar, is sugar cane or beet that’s been refined and stripped of its tar-like, more nutritious component—molasses.
Plus: Pure sweetener with no flavour or aftertaste
Minus: No vitamins or minerals
The tawny sister of table sugar, brown sugar is often just refined white sugar that’s been sprayed with small amounts of molasses.
Plus: The additional traces of molasses make for chewy cookies and great Rolling Stones songs.
Minus: Again, negligible vitamin and mineral content
A natural concoction of aged plant nectar and bee saliva.
Plus: Unpasteurized honey possesses some trace antibacterial properties as well as antioxidants.
Minus: You’d have to drink litres to really see a benefit.