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10 Hidden Food Ingredients That Might Be Making Your Diabetes Worse.

10 Hidden Food Ingredients That Might Be Making Your Diabetes Worse.

Mindful eating is absolutely essential when you have diabetes. It's all about being aware of what you're putting on your plate – and how it might affect your blood sugar. 

However, here's the catch: sneaky ingredients can hide in seemingly healthy foods, making diabetes management difficult.

These are sugars, fats, and other ingredients that companies might add to processed foods without clearly labeling them. They can appear as unrecognizable terms on the ingredient list, making it tough to know what you're really consuming.

It gets trickier. Sometimes, companies use sneaky ways to add sugars without technically calling them "sugar" on the label. 

For example, they might use things like "brown rice syrup" or "fruit juice concentrate" – both really are concentrated forms of sugar, but not raising a red flag.

hidden sugar in indian food

It also is not all about sugars,

  • emulsifiers,
  • food coloring,
  • stabilizers, and,
  • various other additives in processed foods

can make your immune and gut health worse. Thus, exaggerating symptoms of diabetes. 

This is where mindful eating comes in. You can make informed choices by being aware of hidden ingredients and how they might affect you. But before that, you must learn how to read labels like a pro. Here is your guide to it. 

10 Sneaky Culprits To Look Out For.

Despite your efforts to avoid unhealthy food, some controversial ingredients can sneak in, especially in commercialized products.

Here is a list of ingredients that must particularly be avoided. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Sweetener with a Hidden Bite

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener found in many processed foods. It's made from corn starch that has been processed to convert some of its glucose (simple sugar) into fructose (another simple sugar). 

does high fructose corn syrup cause diabetes

HFCS is about 1.1 to 1.3 times sweeter than sucrose. This increased sweetness allows manufacturers to use less HFCS to achieve the same level of sweetness as sucrose (table sugar), potentially leading to cost savings in food production.

HFCS Lurks Everywhere:

Food manufacturers widely use HFCS because it's cheap and has a long shelf life. Here are some common foods you are taking that secretly contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS):

  • Sugary Drinks: Sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices often contain high amounts of HFCS.
  • Baked Goods: Cookies, cakes, pastries, and commercially prepared breads might be sweetened with HFCS.
  • Condiments: Salad dressings, ketchup, and barbecue sauce can harbor hidden HFCS.
  • Yogurt: While some yogurts boast fruit flavors, that sweetness might come from HFCS.
  • Canned Fruits: Beware of syrups used in canned fruits – they may contain HFCS.

The body processes fructose differently than glucose. Unlike glucose, which gets absorbed into cells for energy, fructose relies on the liver for processing. Not only is this excess load on the liver, but also delays the stimulation of satiety. Thus, making you want to eat more calories till you feel full. 

NIH has further conducted detailed research on the differences between metabolism and the effects of fructose and glucose. 

Excessive HFCS intake can overload the liver, leading to:

Popular brands like Lays and Bingo contain HFCS. Also, popular biscuit brands like Parle-G and McVitie contain HFCS in various forms.

Time to rethink your 4 pm chai and biscuit snack?

parle- G causes diabetes

Europe and Mexico have regulations with regard to the use of HFCS commercially, however, India does not have any laws protecting the consumers. 

Added Sugars (By many Names)

You're trying to eat healthy, but those sneaky food labels can resemble a game of hide-and-seek with sugar. Sugar has a million aliases!

Sucrose, dextrose, and agave nectar are some of the fancy names sugar has to disguise itself on ingredient lists. But don't let them fool you! These fancy names all mean added sugars, which can send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride.

Our bodies need some natural sugar for energy. But we really need to watch out for the added sugars in processed foods. These are the sugars manufacturers sneak in to make things taste oh-so-good, but they don't offer any real nutritional benefits.

So, how do you fight back against sneaky sugar? Become a label-reading detective! 

Here are the sugar culprits to look out for:

hidden sugars in indian snacks

Being a label-reading detective might seem like a chore, but it's the superpower you need to control your sugar intake. 

By understanding what's lurking in your food, you can make informed choices and stay up- to- date on your health.

Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame, Sucralose):

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose offer a sugar-free taste sensation, but the jury's still out on their long-term health effects. 

Research is ongoing, and some studies suggest a potential link between artificial sweeteners and:

  • Gut Health Disruption: Artificial sweeteners might alter the gut microbiome, the community of bacteria in your gut that plays a role in digestion and overall health. This disruption could impact blood sugar regulation or contribute to weight gain.

  • Blood Sugar Confusion: While artificial sweeteners don't raise blood sugar levels directly, some studies suggest they confuse the body's natural response to sweetness. This could lead to increased cravings for sugary foods in the long run.

One 8-year observational study found that people who drank more than 21 artificially sweetened beverages per week almost doubled their risk of being overweight.

The same study noted that total daily calorie intake was lower in individuals who drank diet beverages despite their increase in weight. This suggests that artificial sweeteners influence body weight in other ways than calorie intake. 

But what should one eat with diabetes? Read this to know more:

While research continues, there's a simple solution: embrace natural sweeteners! 

Fruits are a fantastic way to satisfy your sweet tooth. They provide natural sugars, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet.

We do not restrict any fruits for our clients with diabetes. The idea is not to manage sugar spikes alone with food, but to understand what really causes diabetes in the first place and reverse the same. Once you have reversed the cause, no matter how much fruit you eat, your sugar levels stay stable.

Watch this to understand the science of diabetes more:

Refined Grains (White Bread, Pasta):

The word 'refined' is of importance here. Whole- grains must not be confused with refined grains. Whole- grains help with diabetes prevention and management. It is only the refined grains that are a problem.

Our body quickly absorbs processed grains such as white flour bread, which results in blood sugar spikes. 

It puts higher demand for insulin while the high blood sugar does its very conventional job of causing inflammation, fat deposition, and diabetic complications such as neuropathy. 

  • Refined foods have low satiety, which means you feel hungry sooner and are prone to consuming more calories (possibly bad ones). 

  • Whole grains on the other hand offer you the entire part of the grain, including fiber and minerals.

But what does refined grain mean?

Think of a single grain of wheat, the way it grows in farms. When you remove the outer later and make it into a flour. which then is baked into bread, it is called a refined grain. The moment you take something away from a grain, you are refining it.

So white rice is a refined grain because the outer later is removed, but brown rice is a whole grain. This, by merely switching white rice consumption for unpolished brown rice, you will see as much as a 16% improvement in blood sugar levels. Switching from brown rice to millets will show an even better improvement. 

Whole- grains are digested slower in the gut and thus does not cause blood sugar spikes. 

Watch one of our clients here who took control of her diabetes by merely making simple lifestyle changes like switching to whole- grains:

Trans Fats (Hydrogenated Oils):

Trans fats, once hailed as shelf-stable wonders in processed foods, have fallen out of favor for good reason. Here's why:

  • Inflammation Troublemaker: Trans fats can trigger low-grade inflammation in the body. This chronic inflammatory state is linked to various health problems, including heart disease and even type 2 diabetes.

  • Insulin Resistance Woes: Research suggests a strong connection between trans fat consumption and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when cells become less responsive to insulin's effects, leading to difficulty controlling blood sugar levels.

In the Indian cuisine, the list of foods containing trans fats is rich:

  • Samosas
  • Pakoras
  • Poori
  • Indian sweets like gulab jamun and jalebi
  • Namkeens, papads

Basically fried foods where the oil's are reused multiple times for frying contain trans fats. 

Due to the well-documented health risks, several countries and regions have taken significant steps to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their food supply. Denmark was the first country to implement a trans fat ban in 2003, limiting the amount of industrially produced trans fats in food products to less than 2% of the total fat content. This policy resulted in a substantial reduction in cardiovascular disease rates.

Following Denmark's example, other countries and regions, including Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Norway, and parts of the United States and Canada, have enacted similar bans or strict regulations on trans fats.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the REPLACE initiative, aimed at eliminating industrially produced trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. This initiative provides a comprehensive framework to support countries in implementing policies to ban trans fats and protect public health.

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Beyond the Label.

While working with clients, our objective is to educate them. This makes them independent to take care of their health long after their program with us ends. We all know to avoid sugar's, but are there other ingredients to watch out for?

Beyond the obvious sugar substitutes mentioned above, here are additional sneeky ingredients you might want to watch out for. 

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate):

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) has been debated for decades about the infamous "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." Research has led to the banning of MSG in foods because of its adverse health effects. 

MSG and diabetes

Here are a few ways MSG can be harmful:

The potential mechanisms by which MSG could influence diabetes risk include:

  • Neurotoxicity: Your control over your hunger hormones can drive cravings. Preliminary researchers points to the fact that excessive MSG consumption might cause neurotoxic effects that impact the hypothalamus, a brain region involved in regulating hunger and energy balance.

  • Appetite Stimulation: Eating more calories than required drives blood sugar levels up. MSG plays a role here by stimulate appetite, leading to increased caloric intake and weight gain, both of which are risk factors for diabetes. Imagine how this might be a win- win for food and restaurant industries. 

  • Inflammation: High MSG intake might promote inflammatory processes in the body, contributing to insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances.

More research is needed to understand the potential effects on people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes.

Amidst such unclear waters, it is best to follow an organic, plant-based, whole-food diet.

vegan diet for diabetes

This will free you from worries about food additives, adverse risks, and unpredictable effects. 

IGF-1 (in Dairy):

IGF-1 is a growth hormone found in bovine milk (among a few other animal protein soures). Elevated levels of IGF-1 can lead to increased insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin. Insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of circulating IGF-1 have an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

We see very drastic drop in blood sugar levels and even reduction in medication for our clients by just dropping dairy from their diet. We insist our clients replace dairy with plant- based alternatives, or simple eat more legumes, whole- grains and pulses instead. 

Consuming dairy products, particularly milk, can elevate the levels of IGF-1 in the human body. This is because cow's milk contains IGF-1, and the hormone can survive the digestion process to some extent and be absorbed into the bloodstream.

milk and diabetes

Besides IGF-1, milk also contains lactose, a type of sugar that the human body has difficulty breaking down. Thus, dairy consumption is strongly linked to gut issues as well. 

Research cited by Dr. Michael Greger indicates that people who consume more dairy products tend to have higher levels of IGF-1 compared to those who consume less or no dairy. These elevated levels may increase the risk of developing diabetes.

The pancreas contains beta cells that produce insulin. IGF-1 can affect these cells, potentially leading to beta cell dysfunction or exhaustion.

Dropping dairy from your diet is frankly easy and a fast lifestyle change you can make almost instantly. 

Nitrates & Nitrites (Processed Meats):

Nitrate and nitrite are preservatives commonly used in processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli slices. While they help prevent spoilage and enhance flavor, concerns exist about their potential health effects.

Studies suggest a link between high consumption of processed meats and increased inflammation in the body. This chronic inflammation is associated with various health complications, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.

Nitrates and nitrites form nitrosamine compounds in the body, which are well-known carcinogens.

In a study conducted on postmenopausal women, consumption of nitrites in processed meat was associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer and end-stage kidney failure.

You will find these when eating from popular chains like McDonalds and KFC.

indian diet for diabetes

Skip the processed stuff and go for whole-food protein sources instead. Beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh–these plant-powered alternatives are rich in proteins and loved by your body. 

Sugar Alcohols (Sorbitol, Maltitol):

At the heart of Indian cuisine and culture are the condiments and sauces (store- bought chutneys). As we turn to the commercialized products for our chutneys and achaars, you should know that these contain sugar alcohols. 

Sugar alcohols like sorbitol and maltitol offer a sweet taste with fewer calories than sugar. They seem like a perfect fit, but there's a catch: their digestive story can get a little messy.

does ketchup cause diabetes

Unlike regular sugar, sugar alcohols aren't fully absorbed by our small intestines. This can lead to a laxative effect, especially if you consume a large amount. Imagine these unabsorbed sugar alcohols hanging out in your gut, drawing water and causing loose stools.

Now, for blood sugar, the story varies a bit. Sugar alcohols generally don't cause a significant rise in blood sugar for most people instantly, however, will damage the pancreatic health on a long run. 

The key takeaway? Moderation is vital with sugar alcohols. Here's how to navigate them smartly:

  • Mindful Consumption: Enjoy products with sugar alcohols in moderation. Start with a smaller amount (Quantity) and see how your body reacts.

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any digestive discomfort after consuming sugar alcohol. If you experience bloating or loose stools, it might be best to limit your intake.

  • Monitor Blood Sugar: If you have diabetes or are concerned about blood sugar control, monitor your blood sugar levels after consuming sugar alcohol to see if they significantly impact you.

    • Make your dressings and sauces at home! You won't need sugar alcohol: You can use fresh tomatoes, onions, herbs, and all your favorite spices to establish the flavor of your choice. 


    To work closely with our team fill the exploratory call below and we will get in touch. Our mission is to make diabetes management easy for you. We will navigate through food labels for you so you do not have to do the same. 


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      About Roshni Sanghvi

      Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

      She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

      Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.