8 Surprising Sources of Sugar

Updated on February 12, 2023

Are you one of the 12 million adults over 65 managing Type II diabetes? While many factors like exercise and medication play an important role in your treatment plan, few things are as important as monitoring your diet.

What Happens to Sugar When You Eat?

When you eat and drink and your body breaks down carbs specifically, it releases sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream. Your pancreas produces insulin that acts as a type of transport mechanism to take sugar from your bloodstream and attach it to your cells which absorb it for energy.

If your body becomes insulin resistant and simply stops producing enough insulin to facilitate this metabolic process, your blood sugar levels become unregulated and Type II diabetes develops. High blood sugar levels over time can compromise your entire cardiovascular system as well as your eyes, kidneys, and nerves increasing your risk for everything from heart attacks and stroke to vision loss, kidney disease, high blood pressure, nerve damage, even amputation.

8 Foods with Hidden Sugar

Sugars are often additions to foods that inherently offer you nothing but “empty calories”. Empty calories are calories derived from drinks and food that give you little to no nutrients at all (i.e. no fiber, no protein, no vitamins, etc.). These types of empty calories contribute to weight gain that also increases your risk of complications from diabetes.

Diet modifications, like limiting carbs, can help mitigate the negative impacts people experience with Type II diabetes as well as potentially prevent the disease from worsening. If you have Type II diabetes, make sure that you start a dialogue with your doctor about your nutrition. They may recommend working with a dietician who can help you nail down the foods you should eat more of, the foods you should avoid, serving sizes, and more.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily serving of 37.5g of sugar per day for men and 25g for women. Note, lots of foods like fruit and yogurt have naturally occurring sugars, however, it’s the added sugars you want to be most mindful of – think corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and corn sweeteners. If you’re trying to get your blood sugars under control, remember these 8 foods with surprising amounts of sugar in them:

  • Sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, and sodas. You are practically guaranteed to have an entire day’s worth of sugar in one serving of these types of beverages.
  • Pasta sauce. You could be looking at 6 to 12 grams of sugar in just one serving of pasta sauce (that does not include the pasta itself!).
  • Salad dressings. Lots of vegetables in a salad is a great meal option, just be mindful of salad dressings. In addition to a ton of fat, they can hide sugar too. For example, a serving of Thousand Island dressing (2 tablespoons) has over 4g of sugar in it.
  • Granola. Processed and pre-packaged granola and granola bars often have sugar or corn syrup in them which can add upwards of 12 to 20g of sugar per serving. The same goes for many cereals and instant oatmeals.
  • Yogurt. While low-fat yogurt is a great idea for your heart health, flavored versions have loads of added sugar, possibly even 25g of added sugar in a 6-ounce cup.
  • Packaged fruits or fruits in syrup. Fresh fruit in moderation is key, but prepackaged fruits in syrup will almost certainly have more sugar in 1 cup than you should have in a day.
  • Dried fruit. The natural process of dehydrating brings out so much more sugar in fruit so opt for fresh fruit instead. Same goes for seemingly nutritious foods like applesauce!
  • Smoothies. They sound healthy but if a smoothie you eat is made with added fruit juice, fruit in syrup, sugary Greek yogurts, ice cream, sherbet, and so on, you will consume as much sugar in one glass as you should in an entire day. Smoothies made with low fat milk, plain yogurt, and fresh fruit, however, can work.

One of the key takeaways to modifying a diet to reduce carbs and therefore sugars is learning to read nutrition labels. Always scan the label for the amount of sugar it has in it and read the ingredients. If you’re picking out a snack like a cup of Greek yogurt and see that it has 20g of sugar in it per serving, understand that is probably too much sugar for just one snack. Opt instead for plain yogurt with fresh fruit in it.

Because diabetes can be so detrimental to your cardiovascular system, it may be important that you monitor vitals at home like your blood pressure in addition to your blood sugar. Regularly recording important health metrics can help you catch a problem before it becomes an emergency.

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