The First Wealth is Health (Part 2)

May 28, 2021

Why do countless food products contain sugar?

Sugar makes you Fat and Sick

To recap

In the first post of this series First Wealth is Health we covered why fast foods, sugary foods and processed foods are bad for you. These foods have a high glycemic index and cause a spike in blood sugar levels and your pancreas to secrete large amounts of insulin. Insulin is your body’s only storage hormone and these consistent spikes in blood sugar cause a roller coaster effect in blood sugar levels. The health effects range from weight gain and obesity to high blood pressure, heart disease and a high risk of Type 2 Diabetes. In this post we elaborate why foods high in sugar and carbohydrates are so bad for you and if consumed, should be in tiny amounts.

It makes us addicts

To be healthy, reduce weight gain and risk of chronic diseases, it’s best to consume carbohydrates that elicit the least rise in blood sugar levels, i.e. low GI. Let’s begin at the top of the GI index with C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁, the molecular formula for sucrose or as we know it sugar, the white and brown granules, so many shovel into their tea and coffee and contained in millions of food products.

Simple, sugar is addictive. Addiction guarantees that the food companies will have endless profits as we will keep coming back for more.

To give credence to our answer, we refer to a 2007 study by Magalie Lenoir and her colleagues at the University of Bordeaux in France. They experimented on rats. Scientists use rats as models for research for various reasons since rats ‘genetic, biological and behavioural characteristics resemble humans’. Researchers can replicate symptoms of many human conditions in mice and rats.

Sweetness above all

The title of the study: Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. The principal finding was that rats, when offered a choice between cocaine and water sweetened with sucrose (sugar) or saccharin (a calorie free sweetener) 94% of the rats chose the sweetened water. Despite increasing the cocaine dose, the rats still chose the sweetened water.

Findings concluded: Intense sweetness surpasses a cocaine reward. The bottom line – intense sweetness (sugar/saccharine) is more addictive than cocaine!

Sugar-laden diets, hyper-stimulate human sweet receptors. Stimulation generates an extraordinary reward signal, in the brain, overcoming self-control mechanisms. This leads to sugar addiction.

They hide in the shadows

The dangers of sugars and alternative sweeteners, is clear. Avoiding them or consuming them in the smallest possible doses is the goal. Avoiding consumption of foods high in sugars helps minimise chances of obesity and chronic disease.

The bad guy in foods disguises himself to fool you. Knowing the bad reputation sugar has (deserved of course) food manufacturers often use alternatives with different names hoping that if you do by chance read the label, you’ll glance over the sugar content, because of unfamiliarity with the name.

An article by Johns Hopkins medicine simplifies it perfectly.

To identify added sugars, look at the ingredients list. Some major clues that an ingredient is an added sugar include:

  • It has syrup (examples: corn syrup, rice syrup)
  • The word ends in “ose” (examples: fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose)
  • Sugar is in the name (examples: raw sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, confectionary sugar)

These are some of the most widely used ingredients used by food manufacturers in foods:

  1. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  2. Sucrose
  3. Fructose
  4. Glucose
  5. Agave nectar
  6. Evaporated cane juice
  7. Golden syrup
  8. Caramel
  9. Dextrin
  10. Dextrose

Note: For those studying nutrition or human sciences, there are differences in the metabolism of certain sugars that is for a different conversation. No matter the metabolic processes, avoid sugars.

Read the label

So how do you avoid these sugar dense, high-carbohydrate foods? Read the label every time you pick up a food package. It’s a habit that could save your life, literally.

Like most things when reading the food labels, you need to know a few things about the information listed on the label. We are going to make it simple for you. South Africa has legislation.


  • Ingredients on food labels in South Africa show the ingredient with the highest volume first and the lowest volume last. So you want any added sugars to be as far down the list as possible.

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional information: listed per 100 grams of the food or per serving. Always check the serving size and work it back to 100 grams.
  • Kilojoules and Calories: 1 calorie = 4 kilojoules. The idea is to avoid sugar-laced, processed calorie-rich foods or choose an option with less.
  • Carbohydrates, carbs or net carbs: Foods high in added sugars will always have high percentages of carbohydrates and be high GI. Avoid them.
  • Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of muscle and assist our bodies in recovery while we sleep. Typically, foods high in added sugars will have low percentages of protein, avoid foods low in protein and high in carbohydrate.
  • Fat: Fat does not make you fat! Demonised by society this thinking allowed food manufacturers to replace fat with sugar. Why? To make us addicted and encouraging us to come back for more. Typically, low fat processed foods are high in sugar. Why? Sugar has no fat. Check the label on a soft drink you’ll notice the fat content is zero, yet we all know drinking lots of soft drinks makes us fat.

That said, there are good fats and bad fats.

  • Trans fats are really bad so avoid them example potato crisps.
  • Unsaturated fats: These are the good fats and also referred to as mono- and poly-unsaturated fats or fatty acids. Foods high in these are good for you and include avocado pear.
  • Fibre: Soluble and insoluble fibre is plant matter and both good for you. Insoluble fibre assists in a healthy digestive system. Soluble fibre helps control blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Choose foods high in fibre.
  • Sodium: South African’s use more salt than any other nation on earth. Salt is high in sodium and consistent intake of high sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, so avoid foods high in sodium and reduce your salt intake.

We care

Thanks for reading, it was a long post but an important one, you’re now informed and can make reading labels something you do for your lifetime, we hope you’re on-board. In the next post, in the series we will explore foods most think are healthy and don’t contain sugars, but do. We’ll discuss why on the face of it not all foods with the same name are nutritionally equivalent and how to choose the one that’s healthier for you.

At The Fields, we’re not just landlords that supply comfortable safe and affordable accommodation for students in Hatfield, Pretoria. We care about the people that support us and that’s why we will continue to post blogs that make your life as a student easier and more comfortable and help you be healthier.

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