Monday, March 24, 2014

Avoid the Sugar Daddy's; They Will Literally Break Your Heart: "Added Sugars" Explained

You may have heard that food labels are changing for the first time in 20 years. We are currently in the midst of their 90-day comment period where the FDA is open to receiving feedback about the proposed changes. Along with changing the size of traditional “serving size” to a more realistic measure, the FDA is proposing adding the line “added sugars” underneath where “sugars” already exists. Added sugars are be any sugars that do not occur naturally in the product such as added cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, etc. 

Refined sugars, whether it comes from a piece of candy or sugar in your coffee are what experts are finding to be the cause of most major diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and more. Quick spikes in blood sugar damage cells, cause inflammation, and lead to damage. Added sugars are always the type that break down quickly in the body and are no good for you. The same is true for refined grains (i.e: any food product that begins with "enriched wheat flour"). Avoid them whenever possible.

I am in favor of adding a line for “added sugars” to the food label. Many of my clients who track on food tracker apps such as My Fitness Pal are often frustrated that their intake of sugar is high, and start cutting out fruit and other healthy foods to keep their sugars low. I then have to explain that I am never worried about total sugar intake, but rather where this sugar is coming from. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy all have sugar in them. Whole grains eventually break down to glucose in the body, but at a much slower rate than a soft pretzel or piece of candy. So, I have my clients look at the food label to determine if there are any “added sugars” to their food products. Added sugars are often found in places you would expect, such as ice cream, but even in whole grain breads and sauces you might not expect, such as vinaigrette-based salad dressings.

My only fear with this new labeling is that people will now begin to only look at the “added sugars” line, instead of looking at the total sugars and evaluating the nutritional quality of their food. For instance, 100% Fruit Juice will have 0 g added sugar. So, people may begin to think this is a healthy choice. While fruit juice is healthier than soda, it is always preferable to eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice. The same goes for dried fruit; choose grapes over raisins is the best bet to get the most satiety, antioxidants, and nutrients out of the fruit. So, just because something has 0 g “added sugar”, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. For example, a tablespoon of butter will have 0 g added sugar, does that make it healthy?
When it comes to added sugars, yes, you can have some, since food should be enjoyable,. You can add a dash of honey to your oat bran if it makes it that more desirable for you. You can eat one small square of dark chocolate after lunch if that’s what you crave. I just want people to be aware of how much sugar they are actually consuming, and the new food label proposal will heighten that awareness. The next step will be to add a line for artificial sugars, since I foresee the use of those by manufacturers increasing as a result of trying to keep their “added sugar” amount low.

In conclusion, I agree with the proposal for a line on the food label to include “added sugars.” However, I believe people need to just use common sense and look at the ingredient list to determine if a food or beverage is a healthy choice. Perhaps future food labels should give a nutritional rating to the food product, such as NuVal or the ANDI rating systems do so that the average American can discern which is the better choice between two food products. Until then, more nutrition information is always better, and the more educated people are, the healthier they will tend to be.


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