Added Sugar In Food Adds Up Quickly: What Wise Consumers Know
More than 75 percent of processed foods contain added sugar.
Careful label readers can discover packaged foods that are as wholesome as processed foods can be. They do not contain irritants such as food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, or MSG. Some brands use organic, antibiotic-free, and even GMO-free ingredients.
However, if you regularly eat food that comes out of a jar, can, wrapper, or box, and are not an informed reader of food labels, you may be ingesting more sugar than you realize. The only foods you can count on to be free from added sugar are fresh produce and animal products that have not been altered from their natural state.
How Added Sugar Adds Up
Even foods that appear to be healthy can hold a startling amount of sugar or fructose. For instance, someone might purchase a blackberry muffin instead of a sweet roll to enjoy with their coffee, not realizing the muffin may contain up to 30 grams of sugar — as much as some candy bars.
A growing pile of credible research suggests excess sugar consumption is associated with several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. One recent study that focused on added sugar intake among adults in the United States found that:
- Nearly three-quarters of adults ingest 10 percent or more of their calories each day from added sugar.
- About 10 percent of U.S. adults, from 2005-2010, received 25 percent or more of their calories each day from added sugar.
- Grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, fruits drinks, and candy are our most common sources of added sugar.
Reducing Added Sugar
American adults frequently eat 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, approximately 350 calories, from added sugar sources. What the American Heart Association, WHO, and many doctors and nutritionists recommend is much less — our daily added sugar intake should be approximately 10 percent of our total daily calories.
Seven Ways to Reduce Added Sugar Consumption:
- The most obvious way: add less sugar to your food and drinks.
- When possible, use fresh fruit instead of canned fruit.
- Replace grain-based simple carbs (bagels, pancakes, white breads) with fresh vegetables, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and a low to moderate amount of complex carbohydrates (whole grains).
- Use the herb stevia to sweeten your food and drink.
- Replace processed or packaged foods with unprocessed whole foods.
- Add flavor to meals with spices rather than sugar.
- Read food labels: four grams of sugar is about one teaspoon. (Dr. Mercola recommends limiting daily sugar intake—from all sources—to 25 grams or fewer per day, or six teaspoons.)
Reading Food Labels for Sugar
On a food label, “reduced sugar” means the food has 25 percent less sugar than when in its original form. The phrase “low sugar” is unregulated, so on a package, it tells you nothing useful. Products with “no sugar added” are usually not sugar free; however, no sugar was added in as the food was processed. Foods that contain fructose often call it “sugar” on the nutrition label.
Sugar can be indicated on packaging as nectar, molasses, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, honey, syrup, or with several words that end in -ose (e.g., dextrose).
The FDA is currently considering new nutrition label guidelines and may decide to include added sugar content on them.
The Spectre of Resistance
It is estimated that 80 percent of adults in the United States have developed insulin resistance, which may lead to diabetes. If you fall into this category, even 25 grams of sugar each day may be too much until your insulin level is normalized. Consult with a doctor or nutritionist about your dietary needs.