Have you searched the web for gluten-free recipes (probably desserts) that are “sugar-free”?
You figure if it’s “sugar-free” then you’re making a better choice, right?
What if I told you that a good number of recipes out there (especially on blogs) are NOT actually “sugar-free”?
Would you be shocked or surprised?
What might be more shocking is the fact that even some product companies are doing the same thing. They claim that their products are “sugar-free” even though they are not. One company, the Butterfly Bakery, has been shut down for making “sugar-free” and “dairy-free” claims that were not true. I had received samples from them some time ago and was highly skeptical about what was on their packaging. None of labels and claims made any sense.
In times like this, I’m reminded that the only advocate you truly have is yourself. You’ve got to educate yourself to outsmart companies and even folks on the web hoping to get web traffic each month posting recipes that don’t actually match the claims. I’ve found gluten-free recipes that clearly weren’t “gluten-free” (and have always done my best to contact the blogger to alert them to correct or remove the post).
Lately, I’ve been shocked to see more and more recipes (many of which tend to fall into the Paleo or Primal category) labeled “sugar-free”, but are clearly not. The most recent example was a recipe shared in my GF Sugar Club where participants are learning about sugar and how to break free from their sugar addiction.
A participant posted this image from a blog called Primally Inspired boasting the claims you see on their image to the right. When I checked out the recipe, it included 4 overly ripe bananas and possibly maple syrup to get the correct amount of sweetness. Then you could add in raisins or chocolate chips… all these 4 options contain sugar (unless the chocolate chips are sweetened with stevia).
One medium ripe banana contains 14 grams of sugar (or 3.5 tsp of sugar per banana) and 1/3 cup of maple syrup is approximately 64 grams of sugar (or 16 tsp of sugar). Does that sound like “sugar-free” to you?
You could argue that there’s no refined sugar in this recipe and I’m totally with you on that one, but that’s not the same as “sugar-free”. The FDA defines the “sugar-free” label to mean that a product (which includes a baked good) to have 0.5 grams or less of sugar per serving.
Another example of this is the multitude of Pinterest pages you can find labeled with “Sugar-Free” and “Paleo” as some of their selling points. In this page there are plenty of delectable desserts, but the last time I checked things like dates and honey (and fruit for that matter) all have sugar in them. So no, 90% of the recipes listed there are not really “sugar-free”.
Though this is a slightly better instance of labeling, it still misleads the reader should you not read the entire blog post. It’s tagged as a “sugar-free” recipe. Though Carol Kicinski does note within the body of the blog that it’s a “refined sugar-free” recipe, I would suggest adding the word “refined” to her tags and site since that more accurately describes these type of recipes.
Maybe you think I’m nit-picking, but I’m not. If a recipe or a product really isn’t “gluten-free”, it shouldn’t be labeled as such since it’s misleading. Nor should a recipe which clearly contains sugar (and yes natural sugar does count!) be labeled as “sugar-free”. If you want to call it “refined sugar-free” then be my guest, but this label is quite different from the generally recognized definition of being “sugar-free”.
Furthermore, I know you’re trying your best to make better choices. Maybe you’re one of the many folks in the gluten-free world struggle with diabetes, pre-diabetes (aka. metabolic syndrome), thyroid issues, etc. Or maybe you have a wicked sugar addiction that got worse once your went gluten-free. (I know what that’s like!) Either way, I want to arm you with this information so that you don’t end up sicker than before.
Natural sugar is still sugar, my friend. And “refined sugar-free” is not the same as “sugar-free”. Not even close.
The moral of the story?
You’ve got to read the ingredients list before running to the kitchen and making any recipe (especially a dessert) which claims to be “sugar-free” to look for any ingredients that naturally contain sugar. You’d do this to double check that it was “gluten-free”, so add this to the list of things that you need to look for before committing to a supposedly “sugar-free” recipe and unknowingly sending your blood sugar through the roof.
All of the following contain sugar (this is not a complete list):
- Any type of Dates
- Fresh or frozen fruit
- Coconut Palm Sugar
- Yacon Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Cane Sugar
- Beet Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup