The Truth Behind Sugar-Free Foods

   I have been asked so many times by my clients: “Can I have sugar-free ice cream or soda? It is sugar-free so it is “safe”. Right?”  Is it? Lets try to understand what SUGAR-FREE food actually means.  Sugar-Free labeled products might not be sugar free at all.  Some dairy products make the claim “no sugar added,” but they are made with milk which contains lactose, a disaccharide sugar (two sugars).  Other labels may read, “Sugar free, sweetened with fructose,” which in essence means, “Sugar free, sweetened with sugar.”  If you don’t see word SUGAR on the label, it doesn’t mean that the product does not contain sugar. Read food label very carefully and if you find those names listed below, stay away from this product. 

  1. Corn Syrup: Plain and simple . . . it’s sugar! Sugar produced from starch.
  2. Dextrin: Dextrin and polydextrin are sugars
  3. Dextrose: another simple one. Glucose.
  4. Fructose: this may also be called fruit sugar. Fructose is a simple sugar and a very ripe banana might affect your blood sugar levels in much the same way as a candy bar.
  5. High-fructose corn syrup: Another syrup, which is made from corn syrups.
  6. Honey: Yes, it’s natural, but its roughly 35 percent glucose, 40 percent fructose, and 25 percent water = sugar+water.
  7. Lactose: This is milk sugar. It makes up 4.5 percent of cows’ milk. It is hardly ever used commercially as a sweetener, is not as sweet as table sugar, and since it is contained in protein-laden foods it has less of a negative glycemic effect than most sugars mentioned here. If the goal is to become as lean as possible, for a period of several weeks while on a fat loss regimen, limiting intake of dairy products may help increase fat release by cutting back on lactose.

  8. Sucrose: A naturally occurring sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets. It’s commonly referred to as “sugar” or “table sugar.” It’s made of equal parts glucose and fructose.

   The Food and Drug Administration has approved four sugar substitutes for use in a variety of foods:

  • Saccharin is sold under trade names such as Sweet ‘n Low and is used widely in fountain sodas.
  • Aspartame has received bad press in recent years as individuals have attempted to link the sweetener to brain tumors and other serious disorders.
  • Acesulfame-K
  • Sucralose also known by its trade name, Splenda is used in products such as baked goods, nonalcoholic beverages, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, fruit juices, and gelatins.

Lets look at some examples from actual food labels to show you what I mean.

Product #1 Regular Jelly Beans 
Serving size: 32 pieces (40 g) Total Carbohydrate 37 g Dietary fiber 0 g Sugars 29 g

Product #2  Sugar-Free Jelly Beans 
Serving size: 2 Tbsp (37 g) Total Carbohydrate 33 g Dietary fiber 0 g Sugars 0 g Sugar alcohol 30 g

   You see that in Sugar-free Jelly Beans is no sugar!!! But you don’t see SUGAR ALCOHOL 30 g! Sugar alcohols are fermented sugars that have slightly fewer calories than sugar, but they do still affect blood sugar levels. They can also cause diarrhea if you eat too much of them. A Primer on Sugar Alcohols
S orbitol, and other sugar alcohols can be found naturally in some fruits and plants and they are used as low-calorie sweeteners in various food products because they aren’t easily digested.

   Group of sugar replacers: sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and isomalt, maltitol. The fact that these sugar alternatives aren’t easily digested helps explain why they have been known to produce gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea in some people. This is thanks to the part of the sugar alcohol that isn’t digested or absorbed. It goes through the intestinal tract and starts to ferment and attract water into the intestinal tract. A certain, individualized amount of discomfort, ranging from gas to diarrhea can result, depending on the amount consumed and each person’s intestinal tract.

   The American Dietetic Association advises that more than 50 grams of sorbitol or 20 grams of mannitol per day can cause diarrhea. You can see the total amount of sugar alcohol in a serving of each sugar-free product by reading the nutrition information label. For example, the Dove Mint Crème product has 17 grams of “sugar alcohols” per 5 pieces or 40 grams of chocolate. 

   You’ll find sugar alcohols in sugar-free chocolates and other sugar-free confections, including gum and mints, and some lower calorie frozen desserts. They are popping up though in all sorts of reduced calorie products, so check that label if you think you are sensitive to them!

 In conclusion,  I always say: “If it is sweet, It has sugar or some kind of sugar alternative. I  recommend Stevia as the best sugar alternative. “Stevia is a South American herb used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zero calories and zero carbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar, and far more healthy!” 





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