Blog Post

High Sugar Foods – Which Are the Hidden Culprits?


How much sugar are you really eating? 

It is well documented how sugar impacts diabetes and obesity, but what you might not be aware of is that it also contributes to heart disease. For many years people have been led to believe that saturated fat is the main cause of coronary disease, but sugar is also a big contributor.

High blood cholesterol, strokes, cancer and poor dental health has also been linked to processed sugar.

It is no surprise that that chocolate, fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes are loaded with added sugar and these are easy for us to identify. However, there are other culprits – foods packed with large amounts of hidden sugar.

Sugar also occurs naturally in carbohydrate-containing foods, like fruits and vegetables. When consuming these whole foods (foods that remain in their natural state), the sugar is processed differently and does not have the dramatically detrimental effect that processed sugars have.

Food manufacturing companies have become wise to the public’s increased awareness of added sugar. With clever marketing they manage to disguise the sugar in their products, so that consumers do not know how much sugar they are actually eating.

Sugar is added to foods to enhance the taste and, arguably, make it more addictive. This is particularly so in reduced-fat products, as food, where fat has been removed, is bland and not as flavoursome as less processed, full-fat foods. This means that a dish you may believe to be healthy because it’s labelled as low fat is actually worse for you. Often these foods are loaded with added sugar (or salt) and this gets you hooked and coming back for more.


We all have favourite items that we eat daily, but may not realise contain high amounts of added sugar. Here are just a few of them:

  • Most low-fat items, including yogurt and low-fat ice cream, have added sugar.
  • Breakfast cereals, especially those directed at children, are packed with sugar.
  • Prepared sauces and meals ranging from a basic tomato sauce to a delicious spicy curry, have large amounts of added sugar.
  • Most condiments and salad dressings, especially the so-called low-fat ones, are filled with sugar.
  • Tinned baked beans, whilst high in fibre, contain lots of sugar and other additives.
  • Muffins, even those with seeds and nuts, are really just cakes high in sugar.
  • Protein and energy bars are not healthy snacks. They may contain vegetable protein and some vitamins, but they are also exceedingly rich in refined flour and added sugar products.
  • Our nightly glass of wine is high in sugar content (albeit not added sugar) and calories. This is true for all alcoholic drinks, which add up fast and interfere with fat digestion.
  • White bread, the staple diet of many, is also high in added sugar.

Scientists in the food industry have got the ratio of fat, sugar and salt in their products just right to make them tasty enough for you to want more.  


You need to be aware of the many different ways sugar is identified on the labels by clever marketers. 

Here are some to look out for:

  • Agave nectar, brown sugar, cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener, corn syrup
  • Dextrose, fructose, organic evaporated cane juice, sucrose, syrup.
  • Glucose, fruit juice concentrates, processed honey.
  • Lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses.
  • In fact, if a food label has an ingredient with “-ose” at the end, I usually assume it’s and added sugar.

Marketers are particularly clever when listing sugars on a label. They will spread them across the ingredients, so you should always scan the full list and not assume because you have seen the word sugar, which is the only sugar present in the product.

Ingredients are also listed in order of predominance on food labels.  This is a good indicator of how much sugar features in the product, compared to other ingredients.


  • Check the labels of products thoroughly. As well as the amount of sugar in a product, check the nutrition facts too. You would be surprised by the lack of any real nutrition in some packaged foods.
  • One heaped teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4 grams of sugar. On average, up to 16 grams is added to a product – the equivalent of 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar. This is just hidden sugars from processed, off-the-shelf foods and not the obvious sugar from cakes, sweets and desserts.
  • Don’t buy anything labelled low fat, as it could do your body more harm than if you eat a full-fat product. Obviously, for people on restricted fat diets this may be difficult, but if you’re on a low-fat diet rather eat whole foods that are naturally low in fat and not processed foods labelled as “low fat”.

You may feel that all this checking on labels is confusing and time-consuming, but if you want to ensure that you are avoiding eating unnecessary sugar, the learning curve will be worth it. Once you know what to look for it becomes easier and both your physical and mental wellbeing will benefit.