From Package to Plate, Part 3. Sugar!
Perhaps the most significant change to the Nutrition Facts is the addition (pun intended) of Added Sugars. As a dietitian, I've been waiting for this for a long time. Sugar has become our #1 dietary villain, and many of my patients are scared of it in all forms. The research is clear, however, that sugar that comes from fruits and milk (fructose and lactose) are not harmful to our health, and that the focus instead should be on reducing the amount of "added sugar" in our diet.
Added sugars, as the name implies, are found in many beverages, snack foods, desserts, candy, and even places you wouldn't expect, such as pasta sauce and flavored yogurts. The old Nutrition Facts panel did not differentiate natural and added sugars, instead lumping (again, pun intended) them together under the heading of "sugar." It was difficult for me, and for my patients, to tell exactly how much of the sugar in their strawberry yogurt was from natural milk sugar and how much was from sugars added for flavoring.
You'll see from the photo below, that the new label will display the amount of added sugar in the food. The total number of grams of sugar will still be there, but underneath it, it will say "Includes __ grams of added sugar." This can help you make informed decisions. Check out the label for yogurt below (from the American Institute for Cancer Research) . The old label notes that the yogurt contains 19 grams of sugar, but it doesn't differentiate between natural milk sugar and added sugar. The new label (on the right) provides this information. Of the 19 grams of sugar in this yogurt, almost 2/3 (12 grams) are from an added sugar source.
Should you limit added sugars in your diet? Research says it's a good idea. Unlike fruit or milk, most products with a lot of added sugars are also "calorie dense"; that is, they provide a lot of calories without providing a lot of nutrition. Current recommendations for added sugars are 25 grams a day for women and 36 grams a day for men. To put that into perspective, a 12 oz. can of soda contains 40 (or more) grams of added sugar. That's more than is appropriate for everyone!
In the next post, we'll continue to deconstruct sugar on the label with ten easy ways to reduce sugar in your diet.