What Are Added Sugars?
Written by, Brandy Ireland, Dietetic Intern
When it comes to trying to eat healthily there can be a lot of confusion about what is better for you and everyone has their own ideas of what is healthy, right? Reading the Nutrition Facts Panel on the back of foods can be daunting. What do you look for? The new label as of January 1, 2021, is now on all products which is great news! The total sugars and added sugars section should be a little more straightforward. Total sugars are all sugars found in that specific food; naturally occurring and added. Added sugars are the ones to pay attention to. Those sugars have been added to the food during processing.
Some common added sugars include:
- table sugar
- brown sugar
- corn syrup
- high-fructose corn syrup
- malt syrup
- raw sugar
Prepackaged foods contain these types of sugar because it is used as a preservative or flavor enhancement. Even though honey is a naturally occurring sugar if it has been added to another food it becomes an added sugar. The biggest takeaway is that added sugars are not naturally found in the food in question.
Are Naturally Occurring Sugars Bad For You?
Not necessarily. A fresh apple tastes sweet because it has natural sugars, no one added any sugar to it to make it taste that way. Naturally occurring sugars are the lactose found in milk or fructose and glucose found in fruits and vegetables. These foods are nutritious in other ways too because they also contain protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in addition to their natural sugars. Fruit and vegetables undergo a digestive process in the body that differs from added sugar. The fiber slows down the rate the sugars enter the bloodstream whereas the table sugar enters it very quickly. Just remember that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. The key is moderation. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommends 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables for the average person in order to fit into a healthy dietary pattern. Consuming any more than this leaves little room for all the other food groups such as protein, dairy, and grains and could lead to an unhealthy diet pattern and unwanted weight gain.
How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends added sugars be kept under 10% of the total daily calories consumed. Ten percent would be 50 grams of sugar or 200 calories for a 2,000 calorie diet. This percentage is the “included added sugars” box found on the Nutrition Facts panel and it includes the daily value percentage. If the food has a high percentage, it may be best not to purchase or consume it and choose a better option.The most common sources with high sugar content are drinks such as sodas and coffees with extra flavor syrups. The second most common are desserts and sweet snacks. If it’s something you love or just have to have, that’s okay too, maybe make it a once-in-a-while food.
How Much Added Sugar Is In Your Diet?
It’s best to be proactive and keep track of your added sugar intake every day. Read food labels, purchase foods with low or zero added sugars, be wary of eating out in restaurants, ask about ingredients, opt for whole foods and less prepackaged foods, and limit the amount of table sugar and honey used in foods and beverages. By just being aware of what you are eating can help make a huge difference. Added sugars provide little to no benefit to health, in excess, added sugars can lead to weight gain and increase triglycerides. Seeking the guidance of a Registered Dietitian to help you identify your sources of sugar and find alternatives is always a great option!