By: Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern
Up until recently, many people believed that the main dietary culprit of many of America’s most common chronic diseases was fat. People began to adopt low-fat diets while not paying attention to sugar intake; chronic disease continued to proliferate. The American Heart Association recommends that people consume less than 6 teaspoons or 25 g of sugar per day, but this advice was shadowed by the intense focus on fats. As time passed and more research was published, it became clear that there was a significant relationship between sugar and chronic disease. Using the research, the FDA proposed a change to the food labels in 2016 to reflect our current nutrition understanding, and soon, hopefully, the new label will be officially adapted.
Two significant changes will be the addition of added sugars underneath the sugars section and the deletion of calories from fat in foods. The goal is for people to be aware of added sugar and place focus on what types (vs how much) of fat are being consumed. Although the updated food label is a great stepping stone to helping people make healthier choices, it’s also important that consumers have more detailed information about sugar in foods Many consumers do not know what “added sugar” technically is. The USDA defines it as sugars and syrups added to foods in processing or preparation. For example, if the product is honey, there is no added sugar in it; all the sugar is naturally occurring. White dairy milk contains lactose (milk sugar) but that is different than “added sugar”. However, if honey was an ingredient in a food, then the grams of honey added would be listed in the added sugar section of the food label.
What about fruits? A medium apple contains 19g of “sugar”. The difference is that it is naturally occurring sugar in a whole food. If we compare soda, a 12 oz can of soda containing 39g “sugar” (USDA), it is all “added sugar”. Whole foods containing naturally occurring sugar also contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is useful for controlling appetite since it slows down the rate of sugar absorption. As long as you’re healthy and consuming foods from all the food groups daily, more fruit is better!
So the next time that you are reaching for that box of Oreos at the grocery store, take a look at the amount of added sugar and consider swapping those cookies for a healthier option such as dark chocolate covered blueberries instead. Not only will it help satisfy your sweet tooth, it will help you follow the recommendation for sugar intake. I hope this information helps clarify what an added sugar really is and shows that consuming fruit can be part of a healthy diet even with its sugar content.