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May 3, 2012 at 1:06 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

5 Healthy Foods Secretly Packed with Sugar

By Brad Ter Haar More Blogs by This Author

Greetings, and thanks for stopping by the blog series, “A Longer Life,” where the latest updates, news, and studies are explored, with the goal of giving you health tips on how to live longer and healthier, just by eating right!

When you grab a doughnut with your coffee or give in to the sweet melody of the ice cream truck and get that ice cream sandwich, you know you are consuming a high amount of sugar. But when you go grocery shopping and stock your pantry, you may not realize just how much sugar is loaded in many foods that are marketed as healthy.

Our society has a love affair with sweets, and sugar consumption is on the rise. One of the reasons we are eating so much more sugar than our ancestors, is because our foods are packed with sugar more than ever before, and advertisers and market gurus are becoming even sneakier and cleverer in their branding and marketing techniques.

Here are five foods often considered healthy, which are chock full of sugar:

#1: Applesauce

Sure, it’s a good source of vitamin C, but what you may not know is how much sugar is added to that jar of tasty sauce. One half-cup of Mott’s applesauce, one of the leading sellers of applesauce, contains 25g of sugar, as does Mott’s Cinnamon applesauce. Other varieties are just as bad: Mott’s Chunky applesauce and Mott’s Homestyle applesauce each have 21g of sugar in a half-cup serving.

So how can you still enjoy applesauce (which tastes great cold or heated up!) without all the added sugar? Simply look for the label that reads, “unsweetened.” Always be sure to check the nutritional labels, but generally, the unsweetened jars of applesauce do not contain added sugars.

Otherwise, make your own! Making applesauce is a great way to use extra apples on hand, and you get to control the ingredients. Apples are already so sweet that there is no need to be adding sugar or high fructose corn syrup like the profiteering food companies do.

#2: Bread

As you probably know, most of us don’t eat enough grains, and bread can be an excellent way to incorporate grains in the diet. Many breads, even though they may be advertised as “whole grain,” “multi grain,” or “whole wheat,” are high in added sugars. Trying to buy a loaf of bread without sugar is actually a chore; I’ve found that, to purchase a loaf of bread without added sugars, my choices are severely limited.
Just one slice of store-bought bread contains an average of 2g-4g of sugar. That means making a sandwich may cause you to eat 8g of sugar! To still reap the health benefits of whole wheat breads, look for those without added sugars; it may take you a while to sift through all the brands, but the good news is that, as consumers are becoming more aware of added sugars, more and more companies are offering sugar-free breads.
Personally, I love banana bread, but if you buy it at the store, it comes loaded with sugar, so lookup a recipe online that uses all natural ingredients, and forgo the sugar!

#3: Cereal

Grocery stores should rename the cereal aisle the sugar aisle! Nearly all the cereals in a typical cereal aisle are packed with sugar, and even those cereals deemed to be healthy still usually have high sugar content, even among cereals in the organic section.
Consider this: one cup of Quaker Oatmeal Squares has 9g of sugar, whereas one cup of Kellogg’s Smart Start Healthy Heart cereal contains 17g of sugar!
Because nearly all cereals have as much sugar as a serving of candy, I generally avoid them, but I do like Grape Nuts, which is a great source of whole grains and contains no added sugars.
#4: Beans

Baked beans, black beans, kidney beans, and other types of beans are great sources of fiber, but many companies add so much sugar to beans that a serving contains as much sugar as a doughnut hole!
After beans and water, the next most common ingredients in Bush’s Original Baked Beans are brown sugar, followed by sugar. Bush’s Original recipe also contains molasses and honey, increasing the sugar count.
Again, reading the label is the key. You should continue eating beans, since they are extremely healthy for you, but be sure to look for cans that do not have added sugars.

#5: Canned Fruit

Although fresh fruit is always a better option than canned fruit, canned fruit can still be a good option for your health, but most companies add so much sugar to canned fruit, that it might as well be a dessert.
Canned fruit often contains sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which significantly increases its sugar content. Cans labeled “in light syrup” or “in heavy syrup” should be avoided. Instead, look for cans that are in pear juice or 100% natural juice, and be sure to check that label!

Avoiding an excess of sugar can be difficult in a society that practically lives off of sweets and added sugars, but by checking nutritional labels, even on supposedly healthy foods, you can control your sugar intake.

Photo Credit: kashka23   CookinCanuck   GoodNCrazy   American Eater


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  • Very interesting. I actually eat a lot of these foods... I'm not surprised they have sugar, but I never thought before about just how much it adds up. Perhaps I should look for healthier alternatives.

  • You're not alone on this Matthew, I used to eat a ton of cinnamon and sugar applesauce. Now I just buy the unsweetened stuff and add my own cinnamon.

    Well said Lysa, we should all take charge of our health :)

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