Sugar by any other name, is still sugar!
The good, the bad, and the ugly, sugar has been described. It’s one of those ingredients that most are still confused about. It’s been singled out as the “cause” of obesity, yet touted by others as a better choice over artificial sweeteners. Here we uncover the facts about sugar.
What is it? Sugar is a carbohydrate, an essential nutrient that our body needs for energy. Sugar can either be found naturally in foods, such as fruit and milk, or added as an ingredient to processed and prepared foods.
Why is sugar added to food? Sugar adds sweetness to food, but taste is only one of the roles that sugar has. Sugar adds taste, texture and color to baked goods and also acts as a preservative in foods like jam, cereals, cakes, candies, cookies, and some beverages.
The Nutrition Label
The nutrition panel of packaged foods lists the total amount of sugars in a serving of food. This number includes sugars found naturally in food as well as the sugar that is added. The ingredient list must state all the sugars which are added to the product.
Sugar can often be “disguised” on food labels since there are many different forms and names for sugar. The following words in the ingredient statement will signal the presence of added sugar in the food: Sucrose, lactose, maltose, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, evaporated cane juice, glucose, dextrose, honey, maple syrup, molasses, orange juice concentrate, raw sugar, powdered sugar.
How much sugar should I be consuming? Unlike ingredients like sodium and fat, the government does not have established guidelines for daily sugar consumption. This is the reason the nutrition label on food products does not have a percentage daily value for sugar (%DV).
However, the American Heart Association recently published guidelines for a recommended sugar intake. For most American women, it is recommended that no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons or 24g) a day comes from sugar. For men, the recommendation is 150 calories (9 teaspoons or 36g).
A report from the 2001-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that Americans get 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day, a number that has been steadily increasing over the years. Soda and sugary beverages are said to be the main sources of added sugar in the American diet. Other added sugars are found in cakes, candy, cookies, pies, ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sugar sweetened grains (cereals, waffles).
What’s the bottom line?
Choose healthy foods that contain natural sugars most often and limit your consumption of foods high in added sugar. Be an informed shopper. Read the ingredient panel to be sure you are truly getting a product without a lot of added sugar. And as always, remember that a healthy diet is one that is balanced and includes a variety of foods from all food groups in moderation.