If you are watching what you eat and read the labels, you might have noticed this number:
Wow! That seems like a lot! And - wait a minute - Wild Zora bars were supposed to be healthy!
Here is the sweet truth: 7g of "sugar" and 7g of "added sugar" are two completely different things.
The main difference lies in the source of that pesky sugar: is it naturally occurring or added?
At Wild Zora, we avoid added sugar like the plague - read on to find out why:
Sugar that is added to processed foods is refined, isolated from its original sources and any potential nutrients.
Because the sugar is already processed for you, your body absorbs it quickly, which results in a rapid rise in your blood sugar and insulin levels. You have probably experienced the “sugar high” yourself.
Will added sugar kill you?
It won’t if you consume it in moderation, but a healthy adult should get no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake from added sugar. This translates to roughly 30 grams of added sugar per day. It seems like a fairly generous “allowance” until you realize that a single can of soda contains 30-35 grams of sugar.
Excess consumption of refined sugar can lead to a host of serious health problems, including diabetes, cancer and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Bottom line: In small quantities, refined sugar won’t kill you. However, refined sugar is not an essential nutrient and it is OK to avoid it altogether.
How Can I Avoid Added Sugar?
This can be tricky.
Sugar is an ingredient that is dearly beloved by the food industry. It is a preservative, so it prolongs the shelf life of the "food products" and it is cheap. And let's be honest: it's easy to fall in love with that sweet, sweet taste, so most consumers don't object.
Added sugar is often disguised as molasses, beet juice (from sugar beets, mind you!), rice syrup or cane juice, just to name a few. When reading food labels, make sure you look beyond the nutrition facts - look at the ingredients carefully!
Two years ago, comedian John Oliver gave an eye-opening account of the way sugar industry has been manipulating the American public.
Since this video was made, the FDA issued new rules regarding food labeling, with emphasis on disclosing the amounts of added sugar. However, the food industry is putting up a fight and the implementation of those rules keeps getting postponed and several companies are fighting to get exemptions an extra time.
Bottom Line: Food manufacturers LOVE refined sugar. Read the labels carefully. Don’t look only at the nutritional facts; make sure you know all the ingredients.
Naturally Occurring Sugar
When Zora first made meat and veggie bars for her children, she did it because she was tired of overly sugary snacks found in stores. She didn't care for the taste and she was concerned about the negative health effects of refined sugar.
But she knew she had to add some naturally occurring sugar (in the form of fruits and vegetables) to her bars to preserve them. Other ways to keep dehydrated meat shelf-stable would involve high levels of salt or chemical preservatives, which are unacceptable. One natural preservative, lactic acid, often used in other protein snacks, gives the food an unpleasant sour taste. Zora was after a snack that is both healthy and tasty.
Zora also wanted to avoid the “sugar high” (if you have ever been around children high on sugar, you understand). So she decided to use a mixture of organic fruits (dates and unsulfured apricots) along with a mixture of vegetables.
Dates are naturally high in sugar but they also contain vitamins (B1, B2, B3, A, and C), proteins, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The soluble and insoluble fibers and amino acids present in dates can also help to improve the digestive system.
In moderation, dates are a wonderful whole food. Each serving of Wild Zora bars (one package, or two bars) contains a small amount, approximately ¼ of a single date. This is enough sugar to preserve the meat without giving you the sugar high.
Dried apricots have an extremely low glycemic index. Both apricots and dates are high in fiber, which slows down sugar absorption. To make things even better, we added vegetables rich in fiber, like kale and spinach.
Those 7 grams of sugar in Wild Zora bars come from dates, dried apricots, tomatoes, and bell peppers. To understand just how much... in some of our recipes, more sugar comes from the TOMATOES than the dates!
TIP: Look for low-carb, gluten-free snacks!
Bottom line: Sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables gets absorbed slowly. Fruits that contain sugar also have many nutrients important to your health.