Trying to follow a whole food plant-based lifestyle but sugar keeps sneaking its way in? You're not alone! It can certainly feel like refined sugar is everywhere...because it kind of is. Worst of all, it's not always easy to identify as you're reading nutrition labels because manufacturers often use sneaky names for refined sugar! But rest easy, here's how to spot refined sugar in packaged foods.
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According to the American Heart Association, the daily recommended maximum amount of added sugar a person should consume is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. That's nine and six teaspoons respectively. But in reality, the average person today consumes 42.5 teaspoons of sugar per day!
Why is this a problem? Well, excess sugar consumption has serious adverse effects on your health. It contributes to weight gain, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It impairs the immune system, leaving it more susceptible to infections and illnesses. It also speeds up the aging process on a cellular level, and may increase the risks for depression, and cancer.
But something to note: not all sugars are created equally. Natural sugar is found in fruit, vegetables, and grains, and it's inherently already in foods, while added sugars are created artificially and added to foods during the manufacturing process.
Here's why it matters what type of sugar you're ingesting.
Have a friend who told you not to eat too many fruits since they're high in sugar? While it's true that fruit is often high in sugar, it's worth understanding that our bodies react different to naturally-occurring sugar in fruit, vegetables, and grains than they do to the refined sugars added artificially to packaged, processed foods.
Natural sugar in whole foods also comes with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants that slow down its absorption in the blood and don't cause a spike in your blood glucose levels. Added sugars, like refined sugars in packaged foods or baked goods, don't have fiber or any of the nutrition the whole food contains. This causes the sugar to enter your blood stream quickly, which can lead to blood sugar spikes and dips.
With that in mind, it can be hard to identify refined sugar in packaged foods because sugar has many different names, which makes it really easy for manufacturers to hide it in food labels — and very difficult for consumers who try to stay away from it. Good news though: below you can find other common names for refined sugar so that you can make informed choices when grocery shopping on a WFPB diet!
Corn syrup solids
Free flowing brown sugars
Dehydrated cane juice
High fructose corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrate
No sugar, no problem! These five delicious refined-sugar free WFPB desserts will prove to you that you don't need refined sugar to experience the sweet life.
1. Beet Brownies
Image and Recipe from Nutriplanet
These WFPB brownies feature earthy heart-healthy beets, and are naturally sweetened with dates, so you can enjoy them without any blood sugar spikes.
Image and Recipe from Feasting On Fruit
2. Chocolate Cupcakes
Can you believe there isn't a gram of refined sugar in these mouth-watering chocolate cupcakes? It's true!
3. Raw Orange Chocolate Pudding
Image and Recipe from Dreena Burton
Chocolate and orange is a match made in dessert heaven, and thanks to this creamy pudding you don't need refined sugar to enjoy it!
4. Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream
Image and Recipe from Plant-Based Cooking
5. Vegan Ferrero Rochers
Image and Recipe from One Green Planet
No more cravings for those heavenly hazelnut bites. You can now make them at home with this recipe; zero refined sugar, a 100% deliciousness.
- Sugar is often hiding in plain side! There are many names for refined sugar, making it easy for food manufacturers to fool consumers.
- By learning other names for refined sugar you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make informed purchases at the grocery store — and stick with your WFPB diet!
- Our bodies react very differently to refined sugar and whole foods with natural sugars!
- You can still satiate your sweet tooth on a WFPB diet by making delicious refined sugar-free desserts!
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.