The Fattening Ingredients Hidden in Your Food Labels

Hidden Ingredients

The Fattening Ingredients Hidden in Your Food Labels


In today’s age of “low-cal” this and “fat-free” that, we start to question, is it REALLY though? What exactly goes into these ‘magic’ foods causing them to be devoid of fat and sugars? Are they truly better for you??

Let’s delve into three ingredients most commonly found in processed foods:

White Sugar

The white powdery stuff that you are familiar with actually originates from the sugarcane plant. Sugarcane is a tall fibrous stalk that resembles bamboo. Consumed in it’s original form, sugarcane is rich in live enzymes and nutrients that are quickly absorbed by the body. In fact, only about 15% of the sugarcane “juice” is actually sugar. The remainder consists of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, proteins and soluble fiber. The sugarcane is actually very low on the glycemic index, with a rating of 30-40 (the lower the number, the slower the foods are released into the blood stream, keeping insulin spikes low).

In comparison, refined white sugar has a glycemic index of 64.

Studies conducted show that the antioxidants found in raw sugarcane can protect against liver disease, cancers (breast and prostate) and helps in blood sugar stabilization. Hard to believe that in it’s natural form, this white powdery goodness is very beneficial, but once refined, it transforms into a chemical nightmare for your body.

The process for turning natural sugarcane into refined white sugar is quite comprehensive, but to give the reader an idea of what the sugarcane undergoes during the process; if raw sugarcane contains only 15% sucrose with the rest being vitamins and nutrients, the refined white substance that is left after the sugar is processed, contains 99.8% sucrose and is stripped of all vitamins and minerals. White sugar is therefore commonly referred to as being comprised of “empty calories” because it contains no nutritional value.

What’s worse? The average American consumes 21.4 teaspoons per day of this poison. Don’t think you are consuming that much, think about this:

  • Meat packers inject animals with sugar before slaughter
  • Packaged meats contain sugar
  • Medicines, cold remedies and nutritional supplements contain sugar
  • Soups, nuts, salad dressings, seasonings all contain sugar
  • Condiments – ketchup, mustard, mayo
  • Almost ALL “fat-free” dressings contain more sugar than regular dressings

And as we’ve stated before, sugar is addicting. Don’t think so? Drug addictions are usually characterized by three steps: increased uptake of the drug, withdrawal symptoms when access is cut off (cravings), and urge to relapse to the drug. Check out this blog for further reading on sugar addiction.

Actually, if sugarcane and refined sugar are further processed, the end result is an addictive and very illegal opioid. Check this out:

Sugarcane →molasses → brown crystals→white crystals of white table sugar →

Poppy → refined into opium→ refined into morphine →finally refined to heroin

Refined white sugar is found NOWHERE in nature.

Many food companies do not list “sugar” on the label – instead they disguise it with these classy names:

  • Agave
  • Barley malt
  • Beef sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Cane sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Glucose
  • Rice syrup
  • Sucrose

Keep in mind too that food labels don’t distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars. The only way to tell is to read the ingredients lists to look for any of the above.

Shopping Tip: when scanning a list of ingredients, be sure to toss any that include the listed ingredients above and instead, look for these sugars:

  • Stevia – not sugar: is an herb that happens to be sweet
  • Raw Honey
  • Organic Whole Cane Sugar
  • Coconut Nectar


White Flour

Similar to sugar, white flour originates from the whole wheat kernel. The whole wheat kernel consists of the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran contains B vitamins, protein, fiber, iron, copper, zinc and antioxidants. The germ is made up of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as healthy fats needed to digest the grain. Finally, the endosperm contains most of the starch, carbs and proteins (gluten).

During refinement of the whole wheat kernel, the bran and the germ are stripped away, leaving only the endosperm. The endosperm is milled and bleached to change the color and its nutrients are stripped as a result. What’s leftover is that familiar white substance we know as “all-purpose flour”, which maintains a long shelf life that even bugs wont touch!

Refined white flour contains no nutritional value, and when consumed, it actually pulls minerals from our bones, teeth and tissues to help the body digest it.

Shopping Tip: Instead of choosing these refined, processed grains, opt for whole grain options like:

  • Barley
  • White rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Whole Wheat
  • Wild Rice

Shopping Tip: Look for the word “WHOLE” on labels. In fact, the first ingredient listed should always start with the word, “whole”. Examples include:

  • Whole grain
  • Whole wheat
  • whole flour
  • Stone-ground whole
  • Brown Rice
  • Oats
  • Wheat berries
  • Sprouted (grain)


Trans Fats

The worst fats you can ingest. They are made through the hydrogenation process. This process turns a polyunsaturated oil, usually liquid at room temperature, into a fat, which becomes solid and stable at room temperature. Manufacturers usually use the cheapest oils – corn, canola, soy, etc for this process. The fats created during this process are called partially hydrogenated oils and are found in virtually all commercial baked goods, cookies, crackers, pastas, breads, cake mixes, pie crusts, etc. – even peanut butter (the non “natural” varieties).

Since trans fats are solid, our bodies cannot break them down, so they remain very hard as they enter the body. Our bodies don’t know how to breakdown digest, or absorb these fats. So instead of getting rid of them, our bodies treat them like other fats and instead of being rejecting them, invite these “bad” fats into our cell membranes as if they were “healthy fats”.  Issues arise because instead of making the cell membranes lipid, these trans fats cause the membranes to stiffen and become rigid. Glucose and other nutrients are not absorbed and begin to build up in the cells and bloodstream. As a result of the blockage, LDL cholesterol cannot get to cells and builds up, which then leads to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Which brings me back to my opening questions and why you should limit or not buy anything that says “lite”, “low calorie” or “fat free”. Why? By law, the FDA does not require food companies to list trans fat on the label if there is less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving. By this mandate, food companies can then claim a product “contains zero trans fat” if there is .4999g per serving. This may not seem like much, but depending on the serving size, you could be ingesting more than you think. Another reason to check the labels for ingredients and the serving size!


Next Steps

My goal in writing this article is not to scare you, but rather make you more aware of what you choose to put into your body. Food is fuel, much like gas is in a car. I have numerous clients and friends tell me they are following a calorie restricted diet and cannot lose weight/fat. Remember that weight and fat are two different things (I wrote a blog explaining this in detail here). Calories in must be less than calories out to lose weight, yes, but to change body composition, you need to fuel your body properly to create and maintain lean muscle mass, which then decreases excess body fat.

By adhering to a process free diet, not only do you ingest more vitamins and nutrients, but your body absorbs these foods and uses them to fuel your activity. Beyond aesthetics, processed free living prevents disease and other complications later in life. You will also notice a surge in natural energy as your body efficiently utilizes more of the foods you consume!

Try implementing the 80/20 rule for whole to processed foods in your home. I recognize that convenience is key with busy schedules, and whole food options are not always available. Starting with an 80/20 rule is both beneficial to your fitness and nutrition goals and also allows some wiggle room for indulgences!

A few tips to keep in mind as you grocery shop:

  • Rid your kitchen and grocery lists of as much processed foods as possible
  • Of the processed foods – make note of serving sizes and calories (ex: if you’re shooting for recommended intake of 2000 calories/day, and you choose a food with 700 calories/serving, you’ve just eaten 1/3 of your daily total)
  • Look for the trigger words as outlined above.

Finally, remember that this is a lifestyle. It’s not a “diet” that you go “on”. Taking small steps to change current habits ensures a sustainable and maintainable nutrition plan for a balanced lifestyle.

Happy shopping 🙂