Sugar, the gremlin lurking in your lattes and low-calorie yogurt, sneaks its way into all kinds of foods, both healthy and not. The food industry can’t help it. Sugar makes things taste good! That’s a biological fact.
But you probably thought that if anything was safe from sugar’s grasp, it was your deli meat sandwich. That savory sandwich must be one hundred percent sugar-free, you thought. Think again. Some of the crucial ingredients in these classic lunches contain secret sugars.
So, where is the sugar hiding in your turkey and cheese?
Well, a few places really. Condiments rely on sugar for a lot of their flavor. Not that you’re putting ketchup on your ham sandwich. But you might be adding honey mustard, barbecue sauce, or some other sugary slather.
Sugar source number two is bread. Many types of bread contain sugar — both from flour used to make it and from added sugars, in the case of some bread manufacturers. Your average slice of processed, store-bought bread can contain around 3 grams of sugar per slice.
But there’s another source you might not expect. Your deli meat might actually have added sugar.
But is that really so bad?
The nutrient — yes, sugar is technically a nutrient — is somewhat unavoidable. And unless you launch yourself into a life-consuming pursuit of eradicating sugar from your life, you probably eat a good amount of it every day.
A carbohydrate found in everything from cupcakes to carrots, sugar is not always harmful. So before you balk at the sugar folded between layers of whole wheat bread, there are a few things about sugar you should know.
First, not all sources of sugar are the same. Your body is going to digest the nutrients from a cookie a whole lot differently than it would from an apple. The sugars in the apple are natural sugars — you ingest them alongside fiber and other vitamins provided by the fruit. The cookie, on the other hand, doesn’t offer many vitamins or minerals alongside its sugary calories. It does, however, offer a ton of satisfaction — also super important to consider when you’re thinking about food.
It’s also important to consider the amount of sugar you’re talking about. Like, will the miniscule amounts of sugar from a dollop of mustard really make much of a difference? Probably not. A majority of the studies that link sugar to negative health consequences such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer assess the effects of diets consistently high in sugar — they don’t say anything about the effects of individual grams of sugar, a one-time indulgence, or even moderate sugar consumption. So if you fall victim to sugar’s covert ops every now and then, you’re probably OK.
So, your deli meat is fine. The amount of sugar per serving is generally pretty small at between 0 and 3 grams. The sugar content only becomes excessive if you’re piling on layer after layer of sliced salami — which you might want to think twice about anyways.