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The New Food Nutrition Label with Added Sugars: What It Means

Sugar — is it good or bad for us? So many people are scared of sugar.

Many temporary diets eliminate sugar from the diet for a specified amount of time in order for the body to “detox.” But, there are also foods with naturally occurring sugars that are considered healthy. In addition, people need carbohydrates for adequate brain function and energy. So, what role sugar play in a healthy diet?

In order to reduce the confusion over the sugar content of food, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated the food label to include added sugars in the foods we eat. This article will discuss the new nutrition food label with added sugars, what it means to our health, and how to read the new food label.

Where sugar comes from

Not all sugar is created equal.

Fruit naturally contains sugar called fructose. Fruit also contains fiber, which helps us feel full and assists our bodies in better digestion. Fruit is abundant with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help our immune system and reduce the risk of disease. On average, a serving of fruit contains 15 grams of carbohydrates from the fructose (sugar). Different fruits have different amounts of sugar per size, which can allow one to eat more or less of it to equal the 15 grams of carbs per serving. For example, half a banana has 15 grams of carbs, whereas three-quarters of a cup of blueberries has 15 grams of carbs, allowing one to eat more blueberries in a serving when compared to the banana.

Dairy such as regular yogurt and milk naturally contain sugar called lactose. Dairy also has protein and offers other health benefits like calcium to build and maintain strong bones. On average, a serving of dairy has 12 grams of carbohydrates from lactose (sugar). A serving of milk is one cup or eight ounces.

Added sugars are defined by the FDA to be “sugars either added during the processing of foods or added to packaged foods, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.” These are the sugars that many of the elimination diets exclude, such as honey, table sugar, brown sugar, sugar cane, syrups, etc. An average serving size of sugar is 15 grams of carbohydrates, which is about one tablespoon of honey, brown sugar, or agave.

How to Read the New Food Label

The new food label states:

Total Carbohydrates (how many carbs the product has)

Dietary Fiber (how much fiber is present)

Total Sugars (how much sugar is in the product — remember, this sugar can come from fruit and/or dairy, which is considered a healthy, natural sugar)

Includes Added Sugars (how much added sugar from sweeteners, syrups, table sugars, etc. have been added — this is what to look out for if trying to reduce one’s overall sugar intake)

Be mindful of the added sugars in products on a daily basis. For sports nutrition, most of the products contain added sugars for quick absorption, rapid digestion, and optimal need for fueling. This is necessary for peak sports performance. However, on a daily-living basis, one should have low amounts of added sugar in the diet.

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