It turns out that cane and beet sugars added to foods—and responsible for everything from diabetes to obesity to heart disease—have traditionally been lumped into the sugars category on labels, and effectively gone unregulated by being hidden in plain sight.
By July 2018, most manufacturers must adhere to a new, revised label format that calls out the grams of extra sugar added to daily staples like soy milk, protein bars, and yogurt. Dietitians, including culinary nutritionist Mikaela Reuben, say we should have been on the lookout for simple sugars—corn sweetener, molasses, honey, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and, of course, high-fructose corn syrup—all along. With the new labels, it’s easier to be aware of the total grams of sugar in a food, and how many grams of added sugars are included. Reuben points out that the American Heart Association recommends women eat fewer than 25 grams of sugar a day (men should stay below 37.5 grams). To put this number in perspective, one Coke, with 39 grams of sugar, is over the limit for both sexes. Other minor sources of sugar in daily diets, including the packets of sweeteners many of us add to coffee every morning, also count toward daily totals.
Reuben says we should be keenly aware of these added carbohydrates that, she says, “break down in the body into glucose, which provides us with energy.” The added sugar in food is an almost instant form of glucose that elevates blood sugar levels “in a way that we do not need nor can we use efficiently.” This glucose infusion alters hormones, immune responses, fat storage, and even moods.
Reuben notes the FDA’s definition of added sugar is the additional refined sugar that doesn’t naturally exist in the food already. (The raspberries in cookies are considered a part of the cookie; the added sugar refers to the products used to sweeten the cookie.) How can you make smart choices while waiting for the new rules to take effect? Read ingredient lists and steer clear of foods that contain sugary additives in your daily diet.
Still, Reuben says, even natural sugars can be problematic health-wise—which is why even whole foods high in the substance should be consumed in moderation. “Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and sweet vegetables”—bananas, dates, beets, and the like—“can still negatively impact blood sugar if consumed in excess, even if they include fiber and antioxidants.” In other words, while natural sugars are better alternatives, they’re still sugars. Reuben warns, “Adding sweet fruit to everything doesn’t make the food healthy. It’s a better option than refined sugar, but it’s still a treat.”
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Content Originally Published By: Elizabeth Varnell @ Vogue