Why Sugar matters?

Sugars are basically soluble carbohydrates that provide energy to the body.  In other words, the simplest form of sugar is glucose that is used up by the brain, muscles and other major organs for their proper function.

But, how much sugar a person needs throughout the day and through what sources are a major concern.
Above all sugars are natural ingredient that forms the major part of our diet since ancient times.

Therefore, added sugar in foods is now required on the updated nutrition facts label. It will focus on added sugars included during processing of foods or sugars from honey, concentrated fruit juices.

To clarify it includes < 10% of total daily calories from added sugars.

Types of Sugar:

1. Fructose or fruit sugar
2. Glucose or dextrose
3. Sucrose or table sugar

The problem is added sugar in foods because it readily digested and absorbed in the body and lead to lows and highs in blood sugar levels. Whereas, the natural sugar in fruits has fiber that facilitates slow absorption.

Sugar is added while processing to enhance taste, flavor and to increase palatability and shelf-life to some extent. But, added sugar increases the risk of weight gain, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.

Nutrition facts food labels with Sugar guises are as follows:

1. Maltose
2. Sucrose
3. Glucose
4. Molasse
5. Corn syrup
6. Maple syrup
7. Brown sugar
8. Cane-sugar
9. Honey
10.Fruit juices concentrate

Look if Sugar Tricks you:

Not only sweet food products like candy, jams, biscuits, fruit juices but non-sweet foods also contain added sugars such as ready to eat breakfast cereals, bread, sodas, and noodles.

Sugar tricks your Brain to eat more:

Scientists investigated that the dopamine, a neurotransmitter in our brain activates reward system linked to positive emotions and desires.

Since our childhood eating sugar-sweetened foods is based on emotional need rather nutritional need. Chocolate, cakes and cookies were used as a gratification food when you win or lose by our parents and friends.

On the contrary, the dopamine reward system is associated with addictions, in which people develop an urge to uncontrollable and pleasurable behaviors such as taking drugs, binge eating etc.

Sugar has been reported as an addictive food similar to cocaine intake.

At present added sugar is present in almost every processed and packaged food by the marketers to attract more customers to buy more. Hence when you eat chips, cookies or pastries you end up eating whole portion of them as it gives you a jolt of energy and feel good emotions.

But, after half an hour of eating such foods sugar crash starts that leads to a cycle of cravings.

Overconsumption of sugar leads to neurological symptoms like depression, anxiety and slows down learning ability in the long run.

Also Read: To Quit Sugar and Salt Apply Health Behavior Modification

Till now, nutrition facts food label focus on the total amount of sugar per serving mentioned by the manufacturers but does not differentiate between added sugar and natural sugar. There is a need to classify added sugars and if any fermented foods (fermentation process requires the addition of sugar).

However, FDA (U.S Food & Drug Administration)approved a new nutrition facts label for packaged foods in 2016 to make consumers aware of a connection between diet and chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart diseases.

Now consumers can make more informed food choices. The new version of nutrition fact labels will be fully implemented by 2020.

CaloriesIt is the total number of calories or ‘energy’ obtained from all the sources (carbohydrates, protein, fat) in one serving of the food.

Daily Values– It is the reference amount of nutrients to be consumed that should not exceed each day (for children >=4 years and adults).

% Daily value– It determines how much is a nutrient in a serving of the food that contributes to total daily diet.

New established FDA dietary reference values (DRV) for added sugars (10% of total calories) are as follows:

For children (4-18 years and adults)- 50 g
For children (1-3 years) – 25 g

Note:

*No DV (Daily values) set for infants through 12 months and pregnant or lactating women.
*If added sugar < 1g in a serving then no mention of added sugar is required.

What consumers can decipher about ‘Added Sugars’ in new nutrition facts label:

1. ‘Dual column‘ labels to indicate both ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ calories for food products that can be consumed in one sitting and multiple sitting.

2. Look for the ingredients that are listed by weight in descending order, it means the ingredients that weighs more are listed above and so on in decreasing order.

3. New footnote of %DV to better explain serving size of food per calories in daily diet.

4. Moreover, larger and bolder fonts for serving size, and calories.

5. An updated version of daily values.

Let’s have a look at the daily intake of food products with added sugar:

According to National diet and Nutrition Survey:

  1. Dairy products: 6% of daily intake of added sugar. Dairy products is one of the major portion of healthy meal but flavored milk, fruit yogurt and ice-cream contain added sugar. Fruit yogurt- 19g/100g, Flavored milk-25g sugar/100g (12g lactose & 13 g added sugar) , ice-cream- 21g sugar/100g.
  2.  2. Non-alcoholic drinks: 25% of daily intake of added sugar. It is typically sweetened with sugar. Such as, Fruit juice- 9g/100ml, Cola- 11g/100ml.
  3. Alcoholic drinks: 11% of daily intake of added sugar. For instance, alcohol is a non-nutrient drink and contain empty calories that is about 7Kcal/g. Tip: Try to cut down quantity of alcohol drink each day, take breaks and stay hydrated. Subsequently, benefits to exclude alcoholic drinks are- improved mood, sleeping pattern, restores heart strength and immunity.
  4.  Snacks whacks- Snacks like biscuits, cakes, cereal based breakfasts and chips is consumed more frequently in breakfast in all age group and available on top shelves of cereals in the market. For instance, biscuits– 10g/100g, ready to eat cereals- (occupy market with no added sugar claim but high in sugar guises like fructose, honey, molases, high fructose corn syrup).

Distribution of Added Sugar in Foods

According to U.S Dietary Guidelines & NHANES (2009-2010) beverages (soft drinks, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages and flavored water except milk) account for 47% of added sugar in the diet. All added sugar in beverages and snacks and sweets (31%) together beverages, snacks (ready to eat meals, chips, fries) and sweets (jam, syrup, pudding etc.), grains (8%), dairy (4%), mixed dishes (6%) account for > 75 % of daily intake of all added sugar.

It’s not that complicated as you think:

There are some tips if you follow, you can overpower manufacturers who make your diet market driven and unhealthy for their profit.
1. Cut down on processed foods and drinks (contain hidden sugars or added sugars)

2. Sweeten your food with fruits, not artificial sweeteners (harmful for long-term use).

3. Cook your food at home more often (outside food mostly contain added sugars).

Related post: 6 health behavioral modifications to go for healthy food 

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