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NATURAL VS ADDED SUGARS

28 March 2022 Jenna Amos, RDN

Sugar has been a hot topic for a few years now, and for good reason. Sugar, specifically too much added sugar, has been linked to several health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

There are two kinds of sugars you'll come across - added sugars and naturally occurring sugars.

  • Added sugars: these are as straightforward as they sound - they’re a sugar added to a food or drink during processing to sweeten the product. Besides calories, added sugars typically provide no or minimal nutritional value. 
  • Naturally occurring sugars: these are sugars found in foods like plain yogurt, whole fruit or 100% fruit juice, which are usually in the company of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.     

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the research based doc that provides advice on what Americans need to eat to promote health, recommends no more than 10% of our total calories from added sugar. For someone who needs 2000 calories a day, this turns out to be 200 calories, or 50g of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends even less, at no more than 6% of our total calories, or about 30g a day for a 2000 calorie diet. Keep in mind these are limits and not an amount to aim for. And while 50 or even 30 grams seem like a lot, added sugars add up quickly in some of our favorite treats. For example, a 12oz can of soda has up to 40 grams of added sugar and a small scoop of ice cream has about 15 grams. 

Luckily, knowing how much added sugar is in your food has never been easier. Over the past few years, food companies have updated their nutrition labels to include an “Includes Added Sugar” line, right under the “Total Sugar” to help consumers understand how much of the total sugar in foods is added. In general, more processed foods are likely to contain more added sugars.   

Still unsure if your food has added sugar? Check out the ingredient list for names of added sugars, which can include some less familiar names like dextrose, sucrose, molasses, and cane juice, in addition to the more familiar sugar, honey and syrup. Remember, the earlier an ingredient appears on the list, the more of it there is in that food.

When choosing foods and drinks, be aware of choices that contain added sugars. These aren’t foods you need to avoid entirely, but items you can try and consume less often to promote good health. It will also help you learn where added sugar in your diet may be sneaking in!       

 

Thanks to our Contributing Dietitian, Jenna Amos, RDN, for this post. 

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