Hidden Sugars – How to Find & Avoid Them

The news is full of reports on how bad sugar is for you, and we aren’t just talking about donuts. Unfortunately, sugar finds its way onto the dinner table of even the most cognizant shoppers. Try as you might, there’s a good chance there is more sugar in your diet than you think.

We know that sugar is linked to many health issues, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, liver problems, and diabetes. Medical science has documented the long-term effects of consuming too much sugar, but there are also immediate consequences like migraines, inflammation, fatigue, and acne, to name a few.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults consume no more than six (women) to nine ( men) teaspoons of sugar per day, but the average adult currently consumes more than 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, many of which are found in foods thought to be “good for you.”

Why Is Sugar Bad For You?

The problem with this is that added sugars change the composition of your body, causing spikes in blood sugar and, of course, crashes. This is a major concern for many migraineurs, especially those who suffer from stress-induced migraine and adrenal fatigue syndrome. Sugar is also calorie-dense, increases your triglycerides, and can displace more nutritious, beneficial foods in your diet.

How Sugar Sneaks Its Way Into Your Diet

With all the processed foods and the constant flow of fad diets coming and going, it can be quite challenging to maintain a healthy diet.

Recently, the ketogenic diet has been getting a lot of attention for its beneficial properties. It reduces the intake of processed foods, is rich in ‘good fats’ that help maintain weight, and it includes antioxidant-rich foods which help the body get rid of free radicals and stress factors. Given its low sugar content, the keto diet is an excellent place to start if you aren’t sure where sugar is finding its way into your diet.

Sugar and Your Gut

More and more research has found a very strong connection between high sugar intake and gut inflammation and dysfunction. Artificial and natural sugars may change the gut microbiome (the internal ecosystem that controls and defines so much of our inner workings). Because sugar is so inflammatory, consuming too much leads to poor gut health and other chronic conditions like migraines, diabetes, and heart disease.

Tips for Avoiding Harmful Sugars

Perhaps the most difficult part of decreasing your sugar intake is knowing where it hides. Sure, we know desserts and other sweet items are sugar-heavy, but there are also tons of items considered “healthy” that are full of added sugars.

Some of sneakiest places sugars hide include:

  • Bread, even those listed as “whole grain”
  • Granola and protein bars
  • Cereal and sweetened yogurt
  • Low-calorie drinks and other carbonated beverages
  • Sweetened dairy products, including many yogurts and kefir
  • Bottled condiments, sauces, and marinades
  • Dried fruit
  • Instant oatmeal

For a complete list of names for these hidden sugars, see Food Watch’s 48 Shades of Hidden Sugar! 

Here are a few tips for avoiding sneaky sugars:

  • Choose natural sweeteners (coconut sugar, raw honey, and maple syrup), but only use these sparingly – it’s easy to overdo it here, so be aware of how much you’re using
  • Up your intake of healthy fats to reduce sugar cravings (avocado, flaxseeds, raw dairy, oily fish, etc.)
  • Pay attention to what you are eating at breakfast, as the most convenient options may be loaded with sugars, how you start your day controls how you feel the entire day long
  • Snack smart with proteins or a homemade smoothie

Let’s face it – sugar has many health implications, both short and long-term. If you suffer from migraine or another condition, it may be time to look at your diet and make some serious changes. If you’ve tried these tips and you’re still struggling, call 203-840-0000 for a phone consultation.


Dr. Axe – Hidden Sugar Foods to Avoid & Healthier Alternatives

Cedars-Sinai – How to Spot Hidden Sugar

Harvard Health – How to spot – and avoid – added sugar

OSA – Does the Keto Diet Help Pain?