Learn about five types of foods that contain surprisingly large amounts of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup, HFCS) — and that are often packaged as healthy — so you can start avoiding them. From The High School Reunion Diet: Lose 20 Years in 30 Days, by David Colbert, M.D., with Terry Reid.
1. Did bottled iced tea (with a healthy, natural-sounding name, no less) make it onto your list? We assume soda did… but, seriously, tea? Everybody’s telling us to drink tea for the catechins, the flavonoids, the powerful antioxidants said to reduce risk of heart disease and cancers and mightily improve our skin. Yes, but that means pure tea, as in brewed by us, not as in bottled by that mysterious somebody else—who miraculously manages to turn pure tea to pure sugar. As far as health benefits are concerned, bottled tea is a contradiction in terms. Why? It typically has about 50 grams of added sugars, and often one of them is HFCS. That not only cancels the health benefits, it completely reverses them.
Check the label. Find a sugar-free tea (not a “diet” one sweetened with aspartame or other artificial sweetener—that’s another problem). Good luck; I tried this experiment at the health-conscious deli across Fifth Avenue. Out of about fifty enticing ice tea drinks on display, I found only one that was sugar-free and nondiet. It took me a half hour of label reading. I bought this delightful tea, added a packet of raw sugar, and it was really good. But when I went back for more, it was no longer there. It had been canceled due to lack of interest. You’ll probably come to the same conclusion I did: easier to make your own.
2. Did a healthy-looking yogurt seem like an unusual suspect? Even as innocuous a flavor as lemon (no crazy “empty calories” in a lemon!) can clock in at around 30 grams of sugars. Why? Because someone added sugar to your healthy yogurt and your heavenly lemon and rendered it the opposite of healthy and heavenly even if on its way to your house it got blessed by the pope. Yogurt is a typical stealth place where we find unholy amounts of sugar. Don’t stop eating yogurt; just stop buying the kind that has added sugars. If you need sweetness, add agave, honey, real maple syrup, or a little pure raw sugar; and/or throw in some naturally sweet (and impressively beauty-boosting) berries yourself. Greek yogurt, the last time I checked, was still relatively additive-free. Check it yourself when you go to the store.
3. Did a beautiful, “pure,” prepared tomato sauce speak to you from the shelf? If it did, it should have told you to go home and make your own tomato sauce, because all too often the prepared kind sports about 15-plus totally unnecessary grams of sugars per serving. If you don’t have time to make your own, search out one with a low sugar content.
4. Your favorite “natural” lemonade weighs in at about 35 grams of sugars and/or contains HFCS. Pomegranate juice? A whopping 50. Same goes for fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit waters, juice cocktails, juice beverages, juice sprays et al.
5. Your nutritional bar came with about 20 grams of sugars, and thus was completely unable to deliver on the “nutritional.” Same with most sports and energy bars. Always reconcile the front
and the back of the package to see if they’re on the same page.
6. Your “energy” or “vitamin” or “spa” or “health” water cost you about 32 grams—and, a few minutes later, a definite dip in energy (and a cloying thirst, too). Ditto with most of the sports and smart waters. Try to stick to water that has no marketing adjective on it at all, except maybe spring. Filtered tap water is good.
Bottled water is not regulated, and may contain bacteria, chemicals—even arsenic; city water is quality-controlled. See Recommended Reading for a brilliant book on the subject: Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte.
7. Your so-called strong-heart cereal has about 17 or many more grams of sugars per serving. (What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?)
8. And the instant oatmeal you weren’t even tempted to eat but did because it was supposed to be good for you had 16 grams of superfluous sugars.
Need we go on? Is everything loaded with sugar? Nah, that’s just the food and drink that are audacious enough to claim that they’ll make us as healthy as a horse.
You may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned particular brands while exposing these everyday drug peddlers. That we haven’t outed the actual products, just called them by the food categories they fall under. That’s because the variation in added sugars from brand to brand isn’t often terribly significant. This problem of added sugars has infested almost the entire packaged and prepared food and bottling industries. Sugar is invariably present in processed foods, but you can tell to what degree it’s there by doing the Drug Test. The products with very moderate added sugars are definitely worth seeking out. Find a tomato sauce with a conscience, a condiment you enjoy for reasons other than the sugar high, a bottled drink treat with only trace added sugars and absolutely no HFCS.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
David A. Colbert, MD, co-author of The High School Reunion Diet (Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Dr. David Colbert and Terry Reed) and founder and head physician of New York Dermatology Group in New York City, is board certified by the American Academy of Dermatology and board eligible in internal medicine. He has been established in private practice in Manhattan since 1993, after studying medicine at La Faculte Libre de Medecine in Lille, France, receiving his degree from New York Medical College, and completing his residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the American College of Dermatological Surgeons.
Terry Reed, co-author of The High School Reunion Diet (Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Dr. David Colbert and Terry Reed), is the author of several screenplays, including the independent feature and cult favorite Cherry, released in 2000. Her first novel, The Full Cleveland, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2005. She is currently writing a second novel and a book on nutrition for American teens. She has a master’s degree in fiction and film from Columbia University.