The Truth About Sugar in Your Diet
Many foods naturally contain sugar, such as fruit and milk. However, certain prepared foods can have added sugar and syrups that are not so easy to identify on the label. For instance, soft drinks, candy, and baked goods are being commonly filled with added sugars for taste. A diet full of added sugars has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, and the holidays right around the corner, here’s how to keep your sugar intake under control.
What Are Added Sugars?
All sugars are simple carbohydrates, and your body uses them for energy. Natural sugar can be found in fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. The term “added sugar” refers to syrups or any sugars that were added during baking or processing. Often these are found in baked goods, energy drinks, and dairy desserts like ice cream and yogurt. However, added sugars can hide in some surprising places, including:
- Whole-grain cereals and granola
- Instant oatmeal
- Frozen foods
- Granola bars, protein bars, and cereal bars
- Pasta sauce
- Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce and fruit juices
- Baby food
- Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, and other condiments
How Added Sugars Impact Your Health
Added sugars lead to an increase in empty calories, meaning that these added calories provide little to no nutritional value in your diet. They are also linked to foods with solid fats such as butter or shortening, and a daily intake of them can impact your overall health. It’s recommended that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. Yet, the average American adult gets an average of 13 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar.
Recognizing and Reducing Added Sugars
Spotting added sugars can be tricky, as they are often totaled with all sugars. The good news is that nutrition labels have gotten an update, which separates added sugars from natural sugars. It’s important to remember when reading your nutrition labels that they are labeled by weight, so if sugar is in the first few ingredients, it’s most likely filled with added sugars. Sugar goes by many names; more than 50, actually. Some of the most common ones include cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, and crystal solids. Other common sugar names are brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and brown rice syrup. Fructose, glucose and anything ending “-ose” is often added for taste.