Most of us have heard that as a nation we are overindulging on added sugars.
We have been told that it is time to reduce the amount of added sugars we eat and drink.
Our labels will be mandated to provide us with the amount of added sugars in each serving of food and drink we choose so that we can make better choices for our health.
How many of us have actually taken steps to keep the added sugar off the menu, off our plates and out of our beverage glasses?
Some say they don’t think they consume much added sugar or don’t understand where to look for added sugars in what they currently eat and drink.
Let’s learn more about the impact of added sugars on our health and how to give added sugar the heave ho!
Why Added Sugars Are a Concern
After reviewing the available scientific research, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans support reducing caloric intake from added sugars.
Sugars found naturally in foods are not at issue. Natural sugars are those found in whole, unprocessed foods such as milk, fruit, vegetables, and some grains.
One major concern of eating added sugars, especially for people who are controlling their calorie intake, is that getting all the essential nutrients our bodies need for optimal health becomes almost impossible when consuming 10% of your total calories from added sugars. Foods that are high in added sugars are often low in nutrients. Think cola drinks or candy bars.
Getting enough fiber, vitamins and minerals can be tough when we fill up on “empty calories”.
Other research shows that eating too much added sugar can increase our triglyceride levels, which may increase our risk of heart disease.
We have heard our entire lives that eating too much sugar can cause cavities – – and it’s still true!
Added Sugars Add Up
Did you know that most Americans are consuming 13% of their daily calories in the form of added sugars?
Some added sugars in our diets will be okay but sometimes we aren’t aware of just how much we may be consuming, especially in our drinks.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate the extra calories in sugar-laden foods that can lead to weight gain or prevent us from maintaining a healthy weight.
To avoid poor health consequences, having information readily available on the food label about how much added sugar is in our food is extremely important.
There have been delays in implementation of the new food labels and there may be further delays, as there are those who hope to reduce even valuable government regulations. Updating the food label to give consumers more usable and helpful information about what is in their food is important to the health of the nation.
Hopefully it will become a reality soon!
Where Added Sugars are Hiding
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for nutrition food labels and the new changes proposed to help consumers understand a little bit more about what they are eating.
Added sugars are defined by the FDA as “sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.”
Sugar can often hide in the foods we eat.
Added sugar can be found in:
- sugar-sweetened beverages (including soft drinks, fruit drinks, coffee and tea, sport and energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages)
- snacks and sweets (including grain-based desserts like cake and cookies, danish, doughnuts)
- dairy desserts, including ice cream and fruited yogurt
- jams, syrups, and sweet toppings
- white bread
Tips to Reduce Added Sugar Intake
Until we get more information on our food labels, we need to be aware of where the sugar is hiding and how to find it in the ingredient list.
There are 61 different names for sugar that you could find on the label.
Here are some tips to help you reduce your own intake of added sugar:
- Read the ingredient label. What are the primary ingredients in that food? The ingredient in the greatest amount is listed first. They are then ranked in descending order by quantity.
- Added sugars may be listed as sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, brown sugar, cane crystals, caramel, molasses, raw sugar, powdered sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or fructose sweetener
- Other names for added sugar that you may not recognize include: brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, agave syrup, and dried cane syrup, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, anhydrous dextrose, malt, maltodextrin, galactose, carob syrup, ethyl maltol, diatase, golden syrup, lactose, invert sugar, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, treacle, agave and turbinado sugar.
- Reduce your intake of sugar sweetened beverages, substituting with water.
- Manage portion sizes of foods containing added sugars, such as when eating ice cream or cookies.
- Use plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.
- Try sugar free versions of products such as maple syrup, jams and beverages.
- Snack on trail mix, hummus and crackers or fresh fruit instead of candy.
All of us need to be aware of what is in the food we are eating and how every ingredient can impact our wellness.
As parents, we should proceed with caution when selecting foods with added sugar for our children to avoid childhood obesity, dental caries and inadequate nutrients for growth and development.
Reading the labels now and in the future when new labeling is enacted will help us all be champions for our health!