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Added Sugar: The Hidden Ingredient

Throughout 2019, you may have noticed changes to the nutrition fact labels on the foods you purchase. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has implemented a new label for packaged foods to help you make better choices about the food you eat. One change in particular will be especially helpful for those who are trying to manage their blood sugars - the addition of "Added Sugars."
Previous nutrition fact labels listed "Total Carbohydrates," which included "Total Sugars" and "Dietary Fiber" indented underneath; these notations indicated if the item was a high fiber or high sugar food. But what the sugar line has not indicated before was whether the sugar was naturally occurring or 'added' sugar (corn syrup, white sugar, etc). Added sugars are those supplemented to the food during processing/preparation, not naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruit and dairy.
While it's important to reduce overall sugar intake for health benefits, foods with added sugars can add unnecessary calories to your diet while providing little to no nutritional value. In fact, scientific evidence has shown it is harder to meet your personal nutrition needs while staying within a healthy calorie limit if over 10% of your total daily calories come from added sugar.

Here are 3 ways you can spot and reduce added sugar in your diet:

1. Read food labels. It's not feasible to completely eliminate sugar, nor is strict dieting the answer. Every carbohydrate you eat (including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) will eventually turn into sugar in your blood. However, you can limit the amount of added sugar you eat from processed foods and beverages. Reading labels is an important first step to see how much sugar you are eating in a day. Check out the nutrition facts label and ingredient lists to find sugar.
2. Choose foods that do not come out of a package. Most added sugar comes from foods that are highly processed such as crackers, cakes, condiments, cookies, pastries, cereals, sugary dairy foods (ex: yogurts with fruit flavor) and especially beverages. Choosing whole foods such as raw fruits, minimally processed vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meats is one of the best ways to avoid added sugar.
3. Skip the sugary beverages. Our top source of added sugar in America is from beverages, including soda, fruit drinks and energy or vitamin drinks. Watch out for beverages that sound healthful but are actually laden with added sugar. Check out the label and try to choose water instead.
Facts about Added Sugar:
  • Added sugar can be called many names, including ingredients ending in "ose," such as glucose, maltose, dextrose and fructose.
  • Honey, maple syrup and molasses are all added sugars.
  • Added sugars are sometimes included to help preserve foods, fuel fermentation for breads, or to serve as a bulking agent in ice cream.

Facts about Sugar:

  • The average American eats the equivalent of about 22 teaspoons of sugar every day from added sugars. This is well above the recommendation by the American Heart Association of 6 teaspoons/day for women and 9 teaspoons/day for men.
  • Most Americans eat between 120-150 lbs of sugar every year...that's approximately a person's body weight in sugar!
  • The scientific name for table sugar is sucrose
  • Even healthy-sounding beverages can have lots of added sugar. Snapple Iced Tea has 46-50g sugar in 16 ounces and Glaceau Vitamin Water has 32g sugar in 1, 20-oz bottle.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your sugar intake and improve overall health, Chester County Hospital’s nutrition services can help. Learn more about nutrition and weight management services by calling 610-738-2835.

Learn more about One-on-One Nutrition Counseling

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Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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