Routt County CSU Extension: Sugar sleuths will like new labels
Understanding the sugar content of your food is about to get easier. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that, among the many changes to their revised nutrition label, foods will now have an extra line to show how much “added sugar” has been added to the product.
The sugar listed on the current label is a combination of added sugar and natural sugars, but not all sugars are created equal.
The current label doesn’t distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and sugars that are added. For example, one cup of milk contains 12 grams of sugar, which comes in the form of naturally occurring lactose. Best of all, that lactose is conveniently packaged with about one-fourth of the day’s calcium, 8 grams of protein and vitamin D.
On the other hand, a cup of fruit punch also has 12 grams of sugar, but no additional nutritional benefit. Added sugars bring very little nutritional benefit with them and thus, are frequently referred to as empty calories.
A recommendation to reduce added sugars is a part of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Health professionals are encouraging people to cut back on their added sugar consumption as an important step in the fight against obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The American Heart Association suggests we limit our added sugars to less than 24 grams (about six teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (nine teaspoons) per day for men.
Formerly, to meet these recommendations, you had calculate the amount of natural sugars, then subtract it from the total sugars to find the added sugar. Soon, the new label will provide this added sugar total.
Advocates for the new label change hope that informing consumers will change their behavior and, more importantly, may convince manufacturers to add less sugar to their products.
At last, consumers will be able to compare yogurt, fruit juice or any other packaged foods and determine which is lower in added sugar. Now, your applesauce can be purchased without standing in the grocery aisle, calculating in your head; instead, you will be able to easily determine how much sugar is coming from the apple versus what has been added.
Look for the new Nutrition Facts label to be on most packaged foods by July 2018. Until then, consumers can look for added sugars in the ingredient list of a product. Ingredients are listed in descending order, so avoid products whose ingredient list starts with sugar or one of its many other names: corn syrup, cane syrup, fructose, honey or fruit juice concentrate.
Keep in mind that some of the best foods don’t come with labels. Increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you get fiber and other nutrients in the mix, without any need to read a label.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics thinks the new label can help everyone make more informed and nutritious decisions when choosing foods to fit their lifestyles and needs.
Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. For more information or to ask questions, call 970-879-0825 or email email@example.com.
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