Do you meticulously read every single label of every food and drink you purchase from the supermarket? Probably not. Because if you did, it would take you all day to shop. As a busy mom of four myself who does most of the shopping, cleaning and cooking, I certainly don’t have time for that. But I have a passion for helping others become pain-free and achieve their health goals. So I wanted to learn all the different names for sweeteners that can sabotage health. Here’s what I learned about the hidden dangers of added sugars.
More and more people are starting to realize just how bad sugar is. Sure, a little bit of the sweet stuff from natural, healthy sources such as berries, apples and sweet potatoes won’t harm your health.
But few people realize how pervasive added sweeteners are in the foods we typically buy. Did you know there are 56 different names for sugar? I’ll share the list with you in just a little bit.
It’s one thing to see “sugar” or “brown sugar” or “organic cane sugar” on a food label. (By the way, organic cane sugar isn’t any better for your insulin or A1C levels; organic sugar is still sugar.)
Maltodextrin: a blood-sugar spiking hidden sugar
To the uninformed consumer, certain added sugars just don’t sound that bad for health. Take maltodextrin for instance. This white, starchy powder is used in packaged foods as a thickener.
But “maltodextrin” just sounds like a benign preservative, not a sugar, right.
Usually made from corn (and also rice, tapioca or wheat), it’s a highly-processed sugar that’s chemically composed of short-chains.
Why is the fact that it’s short chains so important? It’s because it’s a quick-burning fuel. Your body metabolizes maltodextrin super fast. In fact, according to WebMD.com, maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than sucrose (table sugar).
“This means that [maltodextrin] powder can cause a spike in your blood sugar shortly after eating foods that have it. [And] a sudden increase in blood glucose in people with insulin resistance or diabetes can be fatal,” explains WebMD.com.
Even as a nurse practitioner, for years, I had no idea that maltodextrin was that bad for you. In fact, I really wasn’t quite sure what it was. But then I became a functional medicine practitioner and health coach. I’ve helped dozens of clients reach their health goals. And I’ve done so in large part by educating my amazing clients how to easily eliminate added sugars.
How Bad Are Hidden Sugars For Health?
This is a question I get a lot. Many people are aware that eating a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes or obesity; or all three.
But relatively few people are aware just how bad a high-sugar diet is. And keep in mind that certain foods loaded with carbohydrates may not have that many grams of sugar or zero grams of added sugars.
However, those foods—yes pasta, I’m talking about you—should be treated like high-sugar foods. Because unless you’re running a marathon or doing high-intensity exercise every day, those carbs are going to metabolize into sugars. And the unburned sugars will get stored by the liver as body fat. This extra body fat is stored around the abdominal area and hips and all the other areas where ladies don’t want it.
Added Hidden Sugars Wrecks Immune Function
More than putting on extra weight and body fat, added sugars wreak havoc on the immune system. It’s been known since the early 1970s, that simple sugars like the table sugar added to coffee turns off the body’s first response to an infection. White blood cells called neutrophils have a primary role of killing pathogens. But after you eat simple sugars, your neutrophils basically fall asleep on the job. So eating added sugars makes you more vulnerable to infections.
(This is a fact I would have liked the federal health authorities to address during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but don’t get me started!)
Another way that sugar damages the immune system is by weakening your body’s internal antioxidants. When you think of an antioxidant, the first thing that comes to mind is probably vitamin C. But your body has built-in disease fighters. Two of them are glutathione and superoxide dismutase. I’ll do a future write-up about these two internal antioxidants. But it’s important to know that eating added sugars depletes these two disease-fighters.
Want to know the most shocking thing about how sugar can damage your immune function? Well, research shows that drinking just two cans of soda can weaken your immune system for up to six hours.
Sugar & Inflammation
It should come as no shock to learn that eating a high-sugar or high-carb diet promotes inflammation in the body. But why exactly? Researchers believe that immune cells in abdominal fat release pro-inflammatory chemicals. This effect can make people more resistant to insulin, meaning they need more of the blood-sugar-controlling hormone. Being very resistant to insulin places one at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Eating lots of sugar also creates what are called advanced glycation end-products. These substances cause premature aging.
Look, I could go on and on about each and every way eating loads of added sugars destroys health. But hopefully by now you get the picture.
So start reading those food labels. But the problem with food labels is that it’s not always clear which additives are actually sugar. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to ask yourself, was this food around when my great-great grandparents were alive? If not, don’t eat it. Try to eat as natural as possible.
But if you want to learn all the hidden names of sugar, see this chart, courtesy of Women’s Health.
Need To Ditch Sugar? Let Me Guide You
Book a 30-minute complimentary discovery session with me. It’ll be the first step on your journey towards achieving your health goals.
Until next time,
Jenna Witt, NP