Have you eaten out lately? A typical restaurant meal may include a large steak with a salad, potatoes or rice, and a bread roll. It sounds delicious, but what is the overall nutritional takeaway from this meal?

hidden sugar in common foodsHidden Sugars

Sugar. The meal described above may not sound overly sweet, but it could be packed with a whopping 235 grams of carbohydrates.  If you added a cocktail and a small dessert, a meal like this would provide you with several days’ worth of sugar. While these foods certainly provide much-needed protein, fats, and nutrients, are all those carbohydrates really necessary?

Almost every food we eat supplies natural sugar or potential sugar in one form or another. – Adelle Davis, Let’s Eat Right to Stay Fit


Most healthy eaters are aware that sugar is not our friend. Excessive sugar intake directly increases risks of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Many of us try to avoid eating candy, desserts, soda, and junk food so as to reduce unhealthy sugar intake. These very obvious unhealthy foods are not the only culprits, however. High levels of carbohydrates and sugar hide in many other everyday foods, such as:

  • Refined cereals
  • Pasta
  • Foods made with refined grains, such as rice, oatmeal, and bread
  • Starches, such as potatoes, corn, and lima beans
  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruits and fruit-based products

As you can see, these sources of carbohydrates and sugar are not always obvious. One may intend to eat a healthy meal, and put together rice, beans, potatoes, and corn, not realizing the ocean of carbohydrates that is contained in such a selection.

Sugar is an essential nutrient just as is water, but an ocean is too much… Sugar is a body requirement equal in importance to any vitamin. It has, however, only one purpose: to be used to produce energy when a supply of energy is demanded. Otherwise it may be stored as fat for the duration of your life. It cannot build body tissue or improve general health and attractiveness. – Adelle Davis, Let’s Eat Right to Stay Fit

Controlling Sugar Intake

Of course, some amount of carbohydrates and natural sugars is essential to a healthy diet. It would not be beneficial or advisable to remove all sugars and carbohydrates from the weekly menu.  One can find different recommendations on what percentages of dietary calories should come in the form of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.  We suggest avoiding any advice from groups or organizations who might be affected by vested interests — the grain industry would probably love for you to eat a lot of carbohydrate, but that doesn’t mean you need so much!

According to the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph. D:

“There has been much debate about the ideal proportions of protein, carbohydrate and fat in our diets. The Politically Correct diet is one that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat; others suggest a diet in which carbohydrates are all but eliminated, especially for weight loss.  Another school of thought suggests that a certain precise balance of macronutrients (40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat) is the key to perfect health.  Traditional diets, when analyzed, reveal approximate proportions of 40 percent carbohydrate foods, 20 percent protein foods and 40 percent fats, with the exception of arctic regions and certain cattle-herding groups that do not use much in the way of plant foods and whose diets can be as high as 80 percent fat.  (Fats have twice as many calories per unit of weight as protein and carbohydrates. As protein and carbohydrate foods are more than 80 percent water, the amount of fat by weight in a diet that yields 40 percent of total calories is actually quite small. Thus, a lightly marbled steak with a mere 1/4 inch of fat around the edge will contain about 50 percent calories as fat.)  These proportions should serve as guidelines only and not as a rigid dogma that causes us to make a fetish of our eating habits. Systems that stress macronutrient quantities often overlook the importance of the food quality.”

By monitoring your carbohydrate intake and finding the right balance of nutrients for your body and lifestyle, you can create positive changes in your everyday health, appearance, and ultimately, your longevity.

Read more about Adelle Davis and her recommendations for healthy eating:

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