Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Concerned about added sugars? Here's how to be an added sugar detective this Halloween!

Halloween is that time of year when kids rejoice, parents groan and dentists cringe. The holiday by tradition is filled with sugar-glazed donuts, gooey caramel apples and chewy candies of all sorts. It is a good thing Halloween comes only once a year, as regular intake of these high-sugar foods wreaks havoc on our health in more ways than one. A study assessing the U.S. NHANES 2007-2008 data reported that added sugars provided 14.6% of total energy intake in individuals' diets with the main contributors being soda and energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy. The USDA recommends no more than 32gm (or 8 tsp) of added sugars/day per 2,000 Kcal of intake; this is equivalent to 6% of calories from added sugars.

So after the costumes are put away and the candy is eaten (or thrown out), what can you do on a daily basis to make sure your intake of added sugars isn't sky-high? First, lets review the facts:
  • Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation
  • Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those that occur in milk and fruits.
  • While the body does not metabolize added vs. natural sugars differently, sources of natural sugars often contain other nutrients such as fiber or vitamins and minerals. These other nutrients benefit our overall level of health and also affect the total metabolism of the food.
  • Foods that contain added sugars include: soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks (fruitades, fruit punch, Tang), milk-based desserts and products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt and sweetened milk), grain products (sweet rolls, cinnamon toast, donuts, Pop-Tarts, sweetened cereals, Toaster Strudels, etc.). Clearly this is not an all-inclusive list!
If you are confident the product contains only added sugars, you can use total grams of sugar (not carbohydrate) on the label to calculate the number of teaspoons of added sugar in that food or drink. Keep in mind that currently "Sugars" on the food label can mean both natural and added sugar, which is why this really only works for foods whose sugar source is exclusively added. For every 4 grams of sugar on a food label, that is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar in the food. Here are a few examples:
  • One 12 fl. oz. can of regular soda = 40 grams sugar = 10 tsp sugar
  • 1 jelly-filled donut = 36 grams sugar = 9 tsp sugar
  • One 2 oz. (regular-sized) Snickers candy bar = 34 grams sugar = 8.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate ice cream = 38 grams sugar = 9.5 tsp
The problem with targeting added sugars in our diet is that finding the added sugars is sometimes not as obvious. Many products that we believe to contain only natural sugars (such as, perhaps, yogurt) actually contain added sugars as well. With these foods, looking at the food label doesn't help. While the label lists "sugars", this doesn't always mean added sugars if there are natural sugars present and so often confuses consumers.

So, be an added sugar detective! The next time you are looking at a product, find the ingredient list. If any of these ingredients are listed, the product contains added sugars:
-brown sugar                     -invert sugar                  -anhydrous dextrose
-corn sweetener                -lactose                          -confectioners powdered sugar
-corn syrup                        -maltose                        -corn syrup solids
-dextrose                           -malt syrup                    -maple syrup
-fructose                            -molasses                     -nectars (including agave, etc.)
-fruit juice concentrates     -raw sugar                     -white granulated sugar
-glucose                             -sucrose                        -cane juice, cane sugar
-high-fructose corn syrup   -sugar
-honey                                -syrup

Remember, too, that ingredients are listed by weight. So if an added sugar is one of the first few ingredients, the product is likely high in added sugar.

So what are some good ways to reduce added sugars in your diet? Come back next week to find out!

Be Extraordinary,


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