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Friday, February 10, 2012

Sugar Labeling

On Jorge Cruise's Belly Fat Cure we count sugar and carbohydrates as S/C Values. But product labeling can make tracking your sugar intake confusing. Sugar free, no sugar added and low sugar all sound like foods that would be great on a reduced sugar diet, right? Well, usually the answer is no.

First let's cover the difference between two different categories of sugar substitutes.
Natural Sweeteners - Stevia and sugar alcohols (Xylitol, Maltitol, Sorbitol) are consider natural ingredients because they are derived from plants. They contain small amounts carbohydrates, but not as much as refined sugar. There are those who argue that the processing of these products involves lots of chemicals, so they aren't really natural at all and should be avoided too. (That is why they are not allowed on Paleo) But on the Belly Fat Cure, they are allowed and count with your S/C Values.

Artificial Sweeteners - Sucralose/Splenda, Aspartame and Saccharine are chemicals, made in a lab. They have no calories, sugar or carbohydrates but are believed to have other side effects that can prevent weight loss. Possible side effects include stimulating food cravings and long term disruption of digestion. The Belly Fat Cure recommends you steer clear of these. What good does it do if it has 0 Calories, but makes you crave foods that do or clogs up your bowels?

I don't want to pick on one product or brand, I'm just randomly picking a few here as real world examples. The shelves are filled with similarly labeled products, not just these. There are also some with these labels that DO work on the plan... you always have to read the label.

Sugar Free
This is usually a red flag that screams "I CONTAIN ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!", so read that label. Sucralose/Splenda, Aspartame or Saccharine were likely used instead of actual sugar to eliminate the sugar. The Nutritional Facts would say Sugar = 0, but the Ingredients List will tell the full story.

Product Example: Sugar Free Jello Pudding
Ingredients: Water, Xylitol, Modified Cornstarch, Milk Protein, Salt, Cocoa, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Alginate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Natural and Artificial flavor and colors, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.

Notes: So many people see the first allowed sweetener and assume that this pudding is allowed... but read on.
Xylitol - Sugar alcohol, least likely to cause laxative side affects, and supposed to be good for your teeth. This is allowed on the plan, but you should take note of it for side affects.
Sucralose - Also called Splenda, a chemical artificial sweetener.

No Sugar Added
This one is tricky and simply means, "other than the sugars that naturally appear in this product, we DIDN'T ADD ANY MORE". Read the label carefully on these, but mostly they are still too high in sugar and/or contain artificial sweeteners. I often see it in Ice Cream products when I am searching for a Clemmy's substitute.

Product Example: Blueblue No Sugar Added Ice Cream
Ingredients: Milk, Skim Milk, Polydextrose, Cream, Sorbitol, Maltodextrin, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Vegetable Gums (Guar, Carrageenan, Carob Bean), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Soy Mono And Diglycerides, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Annatto Color, Vitamin A Palmitate. Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.

Notes: No plain ol' sugar is added, but plenty of sugar substitutes we want to steer clear of have been.
Polydextrose - a fiber additive synthesized from glucose and sorbitol, it is allowed but not the best thing you could eat. Ice Cream does not have actual fiber.
Maltodextrin - a sweetener derived from starch, but it has less carbs/sugar than actual sugar. It is alllowed but will show up as sugar grams.
Sorbitol - Sugar alcohol carbohydrate, which can have laxative affects, but it is allowed. It is the least favorable of sugar alcohols.
Aspartame - Chemical artificial sweetener, contains no carbs/sugar. Not allowed.

Low Sugar

"Low Sugar" has no real meaning, so you must read both the Nutrition Label and Ingredients list. Lower in sugar than what, exactly? Some of these products are okay, some are not.

Product Example: Quaker Lower Sugar Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal
Ingredients: Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Gar Gum, Oat Flour, Caramel Color, Sucralose, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxone Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamon Mononitrate, Folic Acid

Notes: Anything with maple and brown sugar in it's name could not be allowed on the BFC I'm pretty sure, so that is a dead giveaway. Sugar is the 2nd ingredient AND it has Sucralose (artificial sweetener) - double trouble.

I hope this helps clear up the difference in how sugar is advertised and how to choose the right products! It took me a while to figure out how to precisely read a label on BFC, but once you figure it out it is easy!


  1. Manufactures aim is to confuse. And that I am most of the time...Sometimes I feel like I'm walking around in the store in a fog...

  2. Amber, you mentioned you were looking for a "Clemmy" like ice cream. Have you been successful in finding one? I'm in CA too and have not yet found something BFC good.

    1. Yep, there are few. I made a link to it in the post, but here it is again: http://www.meandjorge.com/search/label/ice%20cream

  3. Thanks for all the research Amber. I always get confused with the sugar stuff.

  4. Yup, yup, yup!
    Someone on one of the boards had mentioned that the sugar-free reeses peanut butter cups were ok, so I picked them up when I was a thte store. When I got home, the first sweetner listed was maltinol, but wayyy down at the bottom was sucralose. I have gotten into the habit of double and triple checking the ingredient list. I just think if I am going to do it, I am going to do it right :)

  5. We can't go by face value can we...thank you Amber for helping us all be more aware.
    Have a good weekend.

  6. Just a FYI, Acesulfame Potassium is also an artificial sweetener. It also goes by Acesulfame K or Ace K. It was listed in several of your examples.

    Before the BFC, I used to drink a canned protein shake that was loaded with this stuff as well as some other nasties.


    1. Thank you Kim, I definitely did not know that and will keep an eye out for it now.

  7. Great post, Amber! Even some of us that know to look closely at labels fall prey to the bad sugars hidden in products. I was chewing gum for awhile and I looked at the label/ingreds. really well, but I guess not well enough! I couldn't figure out why I was getting the achiness in my back. Turns out that there was aspartame in the gum that I missed and I had to go back to the Xylichew (more expensive, but worth not having the aches shooting up my spine).

  8. Great post Amber! It really is important to read the whole label, isn't it? I am always surprised at how many products contain multiple sweeteners.

  9. You are a wealth of knowlege Amber! I just read an article in our daily newspaper that said that Splenda was one of the best sweetners. NOT! I love Truvia and have used it now for 2 years and cant imagine using those other little packets ever again. YUCK!
    Thanks for a great post!