How To Spot The Many Names of Sugar On Food Labels

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

It goes by many names and comes in many forms and disguises, but no matter how you look at it, sugar is one of the biggest enemies of a healthy diet. It can cause inflammation in you system, and even lead to major diseases such as Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen teach you how to identify the many faces of sugar in your own diet.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. This is going to be a very important podcast because we call it the 'Brain Warriors Way' for a reason. You're in a war for the health of your brain. Today, we're going to talk about one enemy that has 56 different disguises, has 56 different names. This enemy is addictive. It's a major cause of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, depression, inflammation in your body, can cause joint pain, back pain, has been associated with autoimmune disorders. You need to know what it is.

Tanal Amen: This reminds me of when we talk about this topic. It's like, "Oh, that lover that has a whole bunch of names you call it." Let's talk about those names. Only the problem is the lover's beating the hell out of you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Over, and over, and over again. Of course, we are talking about sugar. Sugar is one of the names. Addictive, pro-inflammatory, increases erratic brain cell firing; but most people don't know when they read a food label that this bad boy, or this sexy girl, is going to wreck havoc. She changes disguises. She's disguised in so many ways: sugar, high fructose corn syrup.

Tanal Amen: Which is a particularly toxic ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because it has more fructose.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Then people go, "Well, fructose? That gets fruit sugar! It's got to be good for you," except when you unwrap fructose from it's fiber source, it actually turns toxic in your body.

Tanal Amen: One of the problems with fructose in particular is it leads to a bunch of little nasty things, like non-alcoholic fatty liver. It actually increases the bad cholesterol in your body. It will make the type of cholesterol your body produces the kind that's really bad for you, bad for your heart.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We have sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar.

Tanal Amen: There's a surprise, right?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Agave, that's a health food.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh my goodness. I went to the vegan restaurant and they had all these incredible desserts made with agave. What's the problem with that?

Tanal Amen: 80 to 90% fructose.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Bummer.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Next we have beet sugar. We're a huge fan of beets because of the nitric oxide.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It can increase blood flow, but you have to be careful not to have too many.

Tanal Amen: You just don't want it concentrated like that, where you're using massive amounts of it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: How about black strap molasses?

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Brown sugar. People go, "Well brown sugar's better for me than sugar." Not really.

Tanal Amen: Why?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Buttered syrup, cane-

Tanal Amen: Wait, now if we're talking about Aunt Jemima, you got to back up for a second because that-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Aunt Jemima's fat.

Tanal Amen: Okay, forget that. I'm going to forget you just said that. Let's back up for a minute. When people talk about quote, unquote, buttered pancake syrup, do there's no maple in that maple syrup? It's maple flavoring, just so you know.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Maple flavored sugar.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Cane juice crystals, "That must be good for me. Crystals, you know, like in spiritual practice."

Tanal Amen: What is table sugar? Cane juice crystals.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, the next one is cane sugar; and then you have organic cane crystals. Caramel, carob syrup, castor sugar, coconut sugar. Now, isn't that supposed to be better for us? There's a lower glycemic index?

Tanal Amen: It is a lower glycemic.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But really, you got to be careful with it.

Tanal Amen: Same thing, same thing. It's a lower glycemic product, but you do have to watch the amount you're using.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Confectioner's sugar.

Tanal Amen: That's usually powdered sugar, I think.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Date sugar. Dates? It's a fruit! It's the highest glycemic fruit on the planet, which means-

Tanal Amen: It's higher glycemic than table sugar.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Demerara sugar.

Tanal Amen: I've never even heard of that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I know, it sounds like a Game of Thrones sugar. Evaporated cane juice, Florida crystals, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, grape juice powder. I've seen that in a lot of things.

Tanal Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Honey, icing sugar, invert sugar, maple-

Tanal Amen: What's icing sugar?

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think it's the thing you used to lick.

Tanal Amen: That I used to be like, it's like my crack, right? I used to be in the corner licking frosting off of wax paper.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Molasses, raw sugar, refiner's syrup, sorghum sugar, sucanat, treacle sugar, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar. Then there are things that don't have the name 'sugar,' barley malt.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Brown rice syrup, well that's got to be good for me. Brown rice is.

Tanal Amen: The one thing with brown rice syrup that people do need to know, it is often times what in the health food industry or health industry, people will have you switch to because it has no fructose. It's got no fructose, but it is very high glycemic. You just need to know. You need to know, and you need to limit amounts.

Dr. Daniel Amen: High glycemic, for those people who've forgotten, is just how quickly does the food raise your blood sugar.

Tanal Amen: One other thing you want to be careful with, with the brown rice syrup is that it does contain trace amounts of arsenic, but enough that it can raise people's levels.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well that's a bad thing.

Tanal Amen: Right. It's like apples. If you eat concentrated-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Unless you're on Game of Thrones and you're trying to rid of somebody.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrin, dextrose, ethyl maltol, glucose, glucose solids, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, rice syrup. We're not even done yet. Crystalline fructose, fructose, [d-ribose 00:07:26].

Tanal Amen: D-ribose is a special form of sugar, and you do need to know this: you won't find it in most commercial products. Typically that is a special kind of product. That is something that sometimes sports medicine doctors will have people take, put in their water. If you've got a heart condition, that's something that was actually suggested that I use when I'm training really hard. Now the problem is, you have to know and you have to be honest with yourself, 'Am I training really hard?' Because it can actually offer a little support to marathon runners, or people who are training really hard, and offer you a little bit of support for heart health.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Galactose. Oh my goodness, so many ways to hook up with something that's going to hurt you back.

Tanal Amen: Right, and so you have to know. You can see why here you need to know. They are mostly just another name for sugar. There's a couple in there where it's like, 'Oh, that's not the typical thing, and I need to know what this is.'

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, things like that you would think are healthy, like concentrated fruit juice.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Sugar. Or, organic cane crystals, another word for sugar. The reason we want you to break up with sugar is addictive, it's pro inflammatory, it can mess up your gut, it causes erratic brain cell firing. I know if you're in love with sugar, you're really bummed out now. You're wondering if you'll ever listen to the 'Brain Warriors Way' again. I can promise you that the 'Brain Warriors Way' cookbook that Tana worked so hard on-

Tanal Amen: Right, we're not all about being a bummer.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Is filled with amazing desserts that taste great, but they're made with ingredients that you will love, that will love you back in return.

Tanal Amen: Right, and even if you see-

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's what this is about. It's about your relationship with food.

Tanal Amen: It's about combining ingredients in way so that if you do put a little bit of honey ... See, we think of sugar like the legal controlled substance. It's a legal drug is what it is. If we know that people aren't going to get away from it 100%, but if there are those times that you're going to have it, do it responsibly. Don't drink and drive, right? Well, same thing with sugar. Know what you're doing, know what you're getting into. If you're going to have a little bit now and then, then know how to do it because when you eat dessert, like the desserts you buy, the processed foods, it triggers your cravings and then you can't get away from it. When you eat a lot of it, it's going to make you sick. You'll notice in the cookbook, most of the desserts we have, have no sugar added to them. If they do, they might have a couple tablespoons of honey or maple syrup to an entire recipe, which means you're getting less than maybe two to three grams of sugar for a serving. That's actually within range to help keep your cravings under control and not stimulate inflammation. That's what we want you to focus on.

Dr. Daniel Amen: About two weeks ago, I had my 63rd birthday. We were out of town when that happened. When I got back, my staff had a surprise party for me at the office. Honor, who's our corporate chef, actually made strawberry cake for me. It was phenomenal, that everybody, including me, loved it. In the whole batch, just like you were talking about, that fed like 20 of us, there were just a couple of tablespoons.

Tanal Amen: It was awesome. She had two tablespoons of honey in the entire cake. No one could believe it. She used a little bit of fresh strawberries. She used coconut whipped cream with some fresh strawberries in it. That made it sweet enough. It was amazing. One of the things that when we start doing this, people can't wrap their brain around.

They're like, "Eh, I'm not diabetic. It's fine." "Eh, I can't really wrap my brain around the cholesterol issue, whatever." They just can't wrap their brain around it. What if we told you that sugar actually really increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease? There's actually a connection, and we know that now. Why is that?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Why does it increase your risk-

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Of Alzheimer's disease? Well, one, it increases your risk of inflammation.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Inflammation increases every bad thing in your body, including depression and dementia.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Inflammation, major cause of Alzheimer's disease. It also increases your risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes. What's the problem with diabetes? Both you and I know this personally because we've had loved ones who've died with it. When your blood sugar levels go up, blood vessels become brittle and they start to break. It can affect your eyes. It can affect your heart. It can affect your healing. It can affect your brain.

Tanal Amen: In fact, Alzheimer's disease is now being referred to as type three diabetes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: By some people, yes.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Your body just becomes insensitive to insulin, and so insulin can't lower effectively your blood sugar levels. It erodes all of your blood vessels, the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body, and damages every organ.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We don't mean to be a bummer. I am the grandson of a candy maker. I loved my grandfather very much. He died early because he ate way too much candy.

Tanal Amen: That's why we make our candy bars.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It used to be ... Emotionally, it was sort of hard to give up sugar because I felt like I was giving up him; until I realized we actually, at BrainMD, make our 'Brain on Love' and 'Brain on Joy' bars that are incredible, but they're made without dairy, gluten, or sugar.

Tanal Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: People go, "What are the alternatives?" We particularly like erythritol. We like Stevia. There's actually been health benefits for Stevia in a number of studies; but don't go crazy on it because if you go crazy on it, you'll never lose your addiction to sugar.

Tanal Amen: Right. Pick up the 'Brain Warriors Way Cookbook,' and you'll have a whole bunch of recipes to check out. You can check it out on our website as well.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a war you can win.

Tanal Amen: Yup.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.