Americans cannot figure out whether to look at the ingredients or nutritional label to decide on a product. Which one has less sugar? Many consumers do not know whether to scan the ingredient list for sugar words (words with a suffix/ending of – ose like fructose, dextrose, or sucrose) or read the total amount of sugar listed on a packaging label. Fruits and vegetables have natural sugars. Thus, ingredients listed on the food and beverage label will include the various names of sugar. Other sweetening additives may be listed, which do not have the same suffix as sugar words, making the ingredient section of packaging labels a difficult tool to use when choosing between multiple products to purchase.
Despite how one determines which low to no added sugar product to purchase, be mindful of the dietary guidelines recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA suggest that men consume no more than 9 teaspoon (38 gram) and women no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day based on a 2,000 daily calorie diet. Products with an added sugar amount at or under 5 percent are considered to have a low added sugar content. Conversely, products with an added sugar amount at or over 20 percent are considered to have a high added sugar content.
The National Institute of Health states that Americans ate 2 pounds of sugar per year per person two hundred years ago. Currently, the average American consumes over 5 pounds of sugar per year. Many Americans consume well over the recommended limit of added sugar per day. The simple calculation of the added sugar guidance equates to no more than 10 percent of one’s daily caloric intake.
A new guidance to assist consumers in making healthier decisions with regard to sugars was proposed and implemented by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers were required to modify the nutritional label on food and beverage packages. The updated nutrition label lists total sugars in grams, and percent daily value (%DV) per serving. The percentage represents the amount of nutrients per serving obtained from consuming that product. Total sugars include all types of sugars regardless of its source.
To distinguish sugars that are naturally found in a product from sugars added to the product, look for the term “includes.” The amount of sugar added to the product is listed after the word includes. Consumers will also see a percentage on that same line, which represents the daily value percentage of added sugar per serving.
Take the picture of the sample nutrition label. This product has a total of 22 grams of sugar, which includes naturally occurring and sugars added during the processing or packaging stage. If consumed, this product has 11 grams of naturally occurring sugar and 11 grams of sugar added. The amount of sugar added to this product represents 22 percent of the daily value. Thus, the product has too much added sugar and should not be consumed in a day. The AHA recommends consumer not exceed 50 grams of added sugar per day based on 2,000 calorie diet. Recall, if the calories consumed in a day exceed 2,000, the amount of added sugar consumed should be 10 percent of that value.
Single-ingredient sugars (honey, maple syrup, and table sugar) added to prepared products are treated differently as these products are typically not consumed by themselves. Single-ingredient nutrition labels still list the total sugar amount in grams and has the line for added sugars. However, the line for added sugar is zero as these single-ingredient sugars do not have added sugars. Thus, no words may be listed here. Consumers should pay attention to the sugar %DV listed on the labels for these products. The sum of the single-ingredient sugar %DV should be added to the sugar %DV of the product to which it is being added.
The updated nutrition label on food and beverage packages seems to be the better tool when watching the amount of added sugars consumed daily. There is more information presented on a nutrition label than just sugar. Reading the entire nutrition label will help you make an informed product choice.