Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sugar Coated

This afternoon, my wife and I were shopping at Whole Foods in downtown Albuquerque to stock up on supplies for the next leg of our travels. What struck me today was that added sugar has now crept into every aspect of the health food industry, and I am aghast at the ways in which extra sugar is now a ubiquitous ingredient no matter where one may look.

Back in the day, it seemed that the only form of added sugar that we needed to watch out for was high fructose corn syrup, that most processed of sugars that seemed to be added to everything under the sun. Now, with increasingly savvy consumers more aware of such sweeteners, companies have apparently decided that "evaporated cane juice" and other more "natural" sugars are the way to go.

Based on my readings, it seems that the "evaporated cane juice" now apparently used to sweeten the majority of products on health food store shelves (including ketchup, mustard, cereals, crackers, soy milk, etc) are just as guilty of contributing to obesity and other health problems as those containing good old-fashioned sugar, although some may debate me on this notion.

While health food stores try to dress up their processed foods as being "whole foods" by using organic milled cane sugar or evaporated cane juice as sweeteners, they are still simply adding millions of empty (and nutritionally useless) calories into the bloodstreams of ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) consumers, contributing to the overall rise in obesity, diabetes and related conditions. According to some nutritionists, sugar cane does indeed have some nutritional value, but mostly if you just went out into the field and chewed on it, benefiting from the fiber and other nutrients therein.

Searching through the health food store aisles, I am often hard-pressed to find products that are sweetened with fruit juice, barley malt, brown rice syrup or other natural sweeteners that have a lower glycemic index and some intrinsic nutritional value. Increasingly, I read labels ad nauseum, rejecting product after product when I see "evaporated cane juice" or some other unnecessary sweetener in the list of ingredients. Sigh.

I am frustrated with how the health food industry has sweetened the pot, as it were, adding natural-sounding sweeteners to a plethora of products, making shopping more difficult and maintaining a low-sugar diet a challenge. Sugar in some form or another finds its way into most everything these days, and when one looks more closely, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid it, no matter how hard one may try.
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