Should We Care Then About Added Sugar In Packaged Foods
If our bodies cant even distinguish between a molecule of sugar from a banana or a brownie, then why even differentiate between the two on nutrition labels? Well, thats a good question. It would seem that since, to our bodies, sugar is sugar, it wouldnt really matter. If youre trying to limit your sugar intake for whatever reason, looking at the total grams of sugar, no matter the source, is a sufficient way to do so.
But that doesnt mean calling out added sugars is necessarily useless. Products with a ton of added sugar in them are foods that are processed, which means that theres a decent chance other important nutrients could have been stripped out in the process of making the food sweeter and more desirable for consumers.
Foods consisting of only naturally occurring sugars, on the other hand, are typically inherently full of other good stuff, like fiber , protein , and vitamins and minerals , Larson says.
Products with mostly added sugar also tend to have a much greater concentration of sugar than something like a piece of fruit, Tewksbury says, which makes it easier to eat more sugar without realizing it. For example, downing 40, 50, or more grams of sugar when youre nomming on candy or sipping soda is pretty easy to do. Eating 40 or 50 grams of sugar from fruit or milk, on the other hand, requires some effort.
Production Of Sugars Through Photosynthesis
All green plants produce sugars through photosynthesis, a natural process that turns sunlight into energy. These include glucose and fructose, which are converted by the plant into sucrose. Sucrose, glucose, and fructose are found naturally in all plants, and are the basis for all food energy.
The sugars that plants produce are stored in the root, leaf, seed, or fruit of the plant. Sugar cane and sugar beets contain higher proportions of sucrose compared to other plants and are therefore harvested to produce sugar for use at home and in food products. A stalk of the sugar cane plant contains about 14% sugar and sugar beets contain about 19%.
Sugar cane is grown and harvested in tropical regions while sugar beets require cooler temperatures, such as those in Alberta, Canada. Despite originating from different plants, the resulting granulated sugar extracted from either cane or beets is the exact same: pure sucrose.
What Are Complex And Simple Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are classified into two basic groups, complex and simple.
Complex carbohydrates are composed of multiple simple sugars, joined together by chemical bonds. The more chains and branches of simple sugars, the more complex a carbohydrate is and in turn, the longer it takes to be broken down by the body and the less impact it has on blood sugar levels. Examples of complex carbohydrates include wholegrains such as jumbo oats, brown rice, spelt, rye and barley.
Simple carbohydrates are either monosaccharides or disaccharides . They are digested quickly and release sugars rapidly into the bloodstream. The two main monosaccharides are glucose and fructose. The two major disaccharides are sucrose and lactose .
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The Problem Of Natural Processed Sugars
Having debunked the HFCS controversy, we can turn back to the FDAs new added sugar labels. Although theres no question that added sugar is unnecessary and unhealthy, classifying sugars as added or natural doesnt tell the whole story, and we must consider the context of the sugar we consume.
Imagine waking up to a kitchen full of orange: oranges, orange juice, and orange soda. Which one would you pick? The FDAs new sugar labeling would tell you that a 16 oz. orange soda has 58 grams of sugar, all of which are classified as added sugar . A 16 oz. glass of orange juice has 48 grams of sugar, but none of this is considered added sugar since it comes from fruit .
Based on the labels, you might pick the orange juice and assume that its healthier than the orange soda. Unfortunately, the FDAs added sugar label misses a key point it doesnt cover sugars from natural sources that have been heavily processed during production. This loophole includes a number of popular fruit-based products, notably fruit juices and smoothies. In these cases, all of the sugars come from fruit, so they are termed natural. However, the manufacturers have significantly altered the fruits properties. In doing so, they have changed the way our bodies process the sugar contained in the fruit, which has key implications for our health.
An overview of the metabolic effects of orange-related products. A indicates little to no effect in a given category, while a ++ indicates an important effect.
Are Fruit Juices Healthy For Diabetics
One study shows that thousands of people who consumed fruit juices for several years were at more risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who did not consume fruit juices. You should always remember to choose whole fruits over fruit juices as the fibers in juices are lost, so sugar level increases and it can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.
The fibers present in whole fruit slow down the digestion process that helps in keeping the blood sugar level stable. And whole fruits will also satiate your hunger due to the presence of fibers. In the case of juices, you can drink a lot of fruit juice and still feel hungry, which is not a good thing for a diabetic.
You may think that a little raise in your blood sugar will not do any harm. But a diabetic has to keep their blood sugar level stable because frequent blood sugar spikes are the risk factors for diabetes complications.
If these blood sugar spikes occur often, you may develop conditions like narrowing of blood vessels, poor blood pressure, or even heart diseases. Therefore its best to take care of your health from the beginning. You should also exercise regularly to keep your diabetes in control.
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Is The Sugar In Fruit The Same As Added Sugar
Superficially, it could make sense if you were to look at certain fruits’ nutrition labels, they may boast over 20 grams of sugar.
But this sugar isn’t the same as the kind that’s used in candy bars and ice cream. Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition, and New York City-based celebrity dietitian and fitness expert, weighs in: “It’s key to look at added sugars differently than sugar in fruit.”
“In fruit, we’re getting so much more nutrition ,” she adds. Fruit also comes with free-radical-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, water, and fiber. This total package is what makes eating fruit so good for you.
Is Too Much Fruit Sugar Bad For You
The old adage is still true: too much of anything isn’t a good thing.
While there are many benefits of eating fruit, “we still want to be mindful of how much fruit we’re eating because it does contain sugar,” explains Smith.
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How Much Sugar Is In Fruit
Susie Burrellis a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder ofShape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition – here she provides expert advice onsugar content in fruit.
Poor old fruit cops a beating at times and while it is a source of the natural sugar fructose, it is also a nutrient rich food packed full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. So if you love nothing more than to grab a piece of fruit to munch on throughout the day, here are your favourite fruits ranked highest to lowest in overall sugar content.
It is though extremely important to know that unlike added sugar or sucrose, fructose is naturally occurring and when it comes to the overall sugar content in our diet, ideally the more natural sugar we consume, as opposed to added sugars the better. And for the average person, enjoying 2-3 pieces of fresh fruit a day, and the natural sugars it contains it no cause for concern from an overall sugar perspective.
Monk Fruit For Dietary Needs
Monk fruit sugar has been given the stamp of approval from the Food and Drug Administration , and given the title of Generally Recognized as Safe .
Because monk fruit sugar doesnt change your blood sugar levels, that makes it a safe option for people with diabetes. Its also often used as a sugar substitute in keto diets.
Monk fruit sugar has been approved for general use in the U.S., so children and pregnant people can enjoy it as well. However, theres a lack of research in these specific areas. Use it sparingly, as you would with other sweeteners. Make sure to talk to your doctor before using this sugar substitute or any others if you have a medical condition.
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How To Use Monk Fruit Sugar
Monk fruit sugar can replace regular sugar in lots of different ways. Swapping sugar out for monk fruit substitute can help you decrease your sugar and carbohydrate intake.
This alternative is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, so use it sparingly. Because its extremely sweet, its often mixed with other sweeteners. Always read the product label and see what works for you.
Try using monk fruit sugar in the following ways:
- Sprinkle it on fruits for extra sweetness
- Use it in coffee or tea instead of sugar
- Add it to sweeten dairy products like yogurt
- Use it instead of sugar in your favorite recipes
This sweetener stays stable at high temperatures, making it perfect for baking.
Monk fruit has been used for hundreds of years in China and other countries without showing any negative effects. However, theres a lot unknown about this fruit, and its full effects are still being studied in the western world.
Labels On The Back Of Packaging
It’s important to look for the “of which sugars” figure on nutrition labels, which is part of the carbohydrate information.
While this does not tell you the amount of free sugars, it’s a useful way of comparing labels and can help you choose foods that are lower in sugar overall.
Look for the “Carbohydrates of which sugars” figure on the nutrition label.
Products are considered to either be high or low in sugar if they fall above or below the following thresholds:
- high: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
- low: 5g or less of total sugars per 100g
If the amount of sugars per 100g is between these figures, that’s regarded as a medium level.
The “of which sugars” figure describes the total amount of sugars from all sources free sugars, plus those from milk, and those present in fruit and vegetables.
For example, plain yoghurt may contain as much as 8g per serving, but none of these are free sugars, as they all come from milk.
The same applies to an individual portion of fruit. An apple might contain around 11g of total sugar, depending on the size of the fruit selected, the variety and the stage of ripeness.
But sugar in fruit is not considered free sugars unless the fruit is juiced or puréed.
This means food containing fruit or milk will be a healthier choice than one containing lots of free sugars, even if the 2 products contain the same total amount of sugar.
You can tell if the food contains lots of added sugars by checking the ingredients list.
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Different Names For Sugar
There are 56 different types of sugar used in food manufacturing currently, and they are not always obvious . The most commonly recognized sugar molecule in food is sucrose or regular table sugar. Table sugar comes from a plant called sugar cane, which is high in sucrose.
You will often find syrups on ingredient lists, which are sugars that have been extracted from carbohydrate-rich foods and then dissolved in water. Examples include brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or corn syrup.
Another way sugar in processed foods is hidden is with fruit juice concentrates. They are produced by removing most of the water from a fruit juice, leaving a concentrated syrup-like substance.
The food industry tries to market fancy-sounding sugars as more natural than ultra-processed sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. Coconut sugar, date sugar, organic cane juice, and agave nectar are examples of this practice. However, these are all refined sugars at the end!
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Discretionary Calories Can Be Used To:
- Eat additional foods from a food group above your daily recommendation.
- Select a higher-calorie form of a food thats higher in fat or contains added sugars .
- Add fats or sweeteners to the leanest versions of foods .
- Eat or drink items that are mostly fat, sugar or alcohol such as candy, cake, beer, wine or regular soda.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
How To Spot Added Sugars In Processed Foods
Dont be fooled just because you stay away from obviously sweet foods like cake, cookies, doughnuts, and candy. Added sugars hide in a number of foods you may not expect, like processed frozen foods, baby food, dried fruit, cereal, granola, instant oatmeal, salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauces, pasta sauces, flavored yogurt, protein bars, and more. Theyre also found in organic foods and plenty of foods youll find at your local health food store.
The good news is that tallying up added sugars on packaged foods just got easier. The Nutrition Facts Label now includes added sugars underneath where it says total sugars.”
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Does The Body Treat Fruit Sugar The Same As Refined Sugar
This is where things get sticky. While the body breaks down all sugar the same waywhether youre getting your fix from cake or a bananathe process for fruit sugar is much slower. Fleming explains this is because fiber slows down the digestion of sugar, and many fruits are rich in fiber . Another tip to help slow down the absorption of the fruit even more is to pair your fruit with a meal or a protein, she says.
Foods loaded with refined sugarsuch as cookieshave little to no fiber, allowing sugar to quickly travel through the bloodstream. This is why you experience a sugar high and then crash after you guzzle down soda or eat a pint of ice cream. On top of throwing our sugar levels out of whack, refined sugary foods also tend to lack other nutritional value and are often considered empty calories .
How Many Servings Of Fruit Should You Eat Per Day
Smith usually recommends getting in 2-3 servings of fruit per day, and keeping it to a serving at a time.
And yes, that goes for smoothies as well. “Smoothies can be large whacks of carbs and sugar, especially if there’s no protein or healthy fat that acts similarly to fiber to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar from spiking,” she says.
As far as sugary fruits go? You can still eat the exceptionally sweet ones, but Smith recommends you eat these in smaller portions and pair them with extra fiber, a healthy fat like peanut butter, or protein such as a scoop of plant-based protein powder or Greek yogurt to slow digestion and blunt the sugar spike.
Total Sugar: 1 cup, chopped, 29.3 gFiber: 5.2 g
While you may only know this sweet fruit from its inclusion in the famous Fig Newton cookies, you’ll have to eat the fruit rawâand without the coating of sugar and flourâto best reap the health-protective benefits such as its high fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K contents. Figs also contain prebiotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestive wellness. But because of their high sugar content, be sure to enjoy by eating only one or two whole ones at a time. Try wrapping figs in prosciutto and adding a dollop of goat cheese. Both the meat and the cheese have extra protein to help fill you up so you don’t feel the need to keep munching.
Total Sugar: 1 cup, arils/seeds, 23.8 gFiber: 7.0 g
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Is Sugar From Fruit Better For You Than White Sugar
We Asked: Joy Dubost, R.D., is a nutritionist, food scientist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Answer: Whether it’s in a piece of fruit, your soda or a pastry, sugar is made up of the same two components: fructose and glucose. The molecular structure and composition of sugar molecules is the same no matter where they come from.
The ratios of fructose and glucose are pretty much the same in both fruit and table sugar. Most fruits are 40 to 55 percent fructose , and table sugar is 50/50. Neither type of sugar is better or worse for you, but your body processes them differently. Fructose breaks down in your liver and doesnt provoke an insulin response. Glucose starts to break down in the stomach and requires the release of insulin into the bloodstream to be metabolized completely.
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Don’t get the idea that because the sugar composition is the same in fruit and cake, they’re interchangeable. For one thing, fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water, while candy and desserts are nutritionally void. Fruit also tends to have less sugar by volume. Half a cup of strawberries: 3.5 grams of sugar. Half a cup of strawberry ice cream: 15 grams.
On average, Americans don’t eat enough fruit, so don’t cut it out of your diet in an attempt to limit your sugar intake! Sugar itself isn’t toxic. But getting too much of it from cookies and cake is.