Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Added sugars are sugars that are not naturally occurring in food. Naturally occurring sugars can be found in foods like milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Added sugars are used foods to enhance the taste of some foods. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is broken down and used for energy. There is no nutritional benefit to sugar. And when taken in excess of needs, extra sugar is then stored as fat, which can increase triglyceride levels among other health concerns.

The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of your daily intake. So for a woman consuming 1,500 calories, that’s only 150 calories coming from added sugars which is 37.5 grams/day or nine teaspoons. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your discretionary calories, which would be 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men. This equates to six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoon for men.

Added sugars go by many names such as:

  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sugar molecules (dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • Turbinado sugar

Since some foods do have sugar naturally occurring, it makes it difficult to determine which foods have added sugars. Looking on food labels for foods labeled as “no added sugar” is also a great way to find lower-sugar options. The ingredient list also provides a clue by finding words like those listed above. Luckily, in 2016, the FDA required manufacturers to start changing the Nutrition Facts Label to include added sugars. It is said by January 2021, all labels should include added sugars under the Total Carbohydrate heading.

According to the AHA, the major sources of added sugars in America come from processed foods such as sodas, sugar, candy, cakes, cookies, pie and fruit drinks. Other culprits include dairy desserts/milk products such as yogurt and ice cream and other grains such as sugar-sweetened cereals and breakfast items such as donuts, muffins, breads, etc.

Looking for lower-sugar items will help reduce the amount of “added sugars” in your diet and can help your health in the long run. This is not only advice for people with current medical conditions but also for the general public.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is a registered dietitian for Jackson County Hospital District.

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