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1:28 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Breaking Down Food Labels - Sugar

Thinkstock image

Thinkstock image

Hello Simply Fit readers. In a few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will update the nutrition labels that we find on foods and beverages. This new label's purpose is to help you and I to make healthier choices because let's face it, we always look at the label before we even consider eating or drinking something right? Don't answer that. Sadly, few people bother to read nutrition labels and then the few that do, are not able to truly understand what the label means.

So let's focus on sugar. What does it mean when a label states that a product contains thirty-two grams of sugar per serving? First of all, I want to know who on God's green earth decided to use grams instead of teaspoons...but I digress. In simplest terms, four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon.

So if a labels states that there are thirty-two grams of sugar per serving, then there would be eight teaspoons of sugar per serving because thirty-two divided by four equals eight. Now that wasn't hard was it?

For example, in my pantry there is a box of instant oatmeal. On the front of the box it says "Heart Healthy" and "Whole Grains" which is all true, but when I turn the box over, I see that there are twelve grams of sugar in every serving which is equal to three teaspoons of sugar.

Another example is a box of cold cereal. The label states that three-fourths of a cup contains ten grams of sugar. I can only speak for myself, but when I pour myself a bowl of cereal, it's usually more than three-fourths of a cup. So let's say that a normal serving is around one and a half cups. That would mean that I just ate twenty grams of sugar. Now let's add the milk, which would add approximately eleven more grams of sugar. This means that our seemingly innocent breakfast of cereal and milk contains around thirty-one grams of sugar which is equal to almost eight teaspoons of sugar. (Thirty-one divided by four teaspoons equals 7.75)

One thing that the current nutrition label does not say is how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much sugar has been added. Naturally occurring sugar can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and honey. It's important to note that most foods that contain naturally occurring sugar are also high in beneficial nutrients while foods and beverages that have added sugar are less likely to be as nutrient rich.

To simplify, four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon; some foods contain naturally occurring sugars but are also high in beneficial nutrients; foods that have added sugar are less likely to be as beneficial; try to keep the amount of added sugar in your diet to a minimum by consuming less processed foods and by looking at the nutrient label and ingredients.

According to the American Heart Association: Americans get about 88.8 teaspoons (22.2 grams) of added sugar per day. This is well over the recommended amount of six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), sugars should make up less than 10% of total calories per day and that reducing sugar intake to five percent of total calorie intake would have additional benefits. Five percent of total energy intake is equal to about twenty-five grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult with a normal body mass index (BMI)

According to a Huffington Post article written in July 2013, sugar has the following health risks:

1. Sugar can damage your heart (by affecting the pumping mechanism of the heart.)

2. Sugar specifically promotes belly fat (Mainly fructose which is found in sugar laden beverages.)

3. Sugar is the true silent killer (Sugar, especially fructose, seems to numb our hormonal response to being full, which causes us to over eat because we think we are still hungry.)

4. Sugar may be linked to cancer production and may effect cancer survival (Some studies have pointed to high sugar intakes to higher risks of breast and colon cancer.)

5. Your sugar "addiction" may be genetic (Thanks mom!)

6. Sugar and alcohol have similar toxic liver effects on the body (Some research showed that fructose and glucose in excess is just as harmful to the liver as excess in alcohol)

7. Sugar may sap your brain power (Excess sugar has been shown to cause premature aging in the brain)

8. Sugar hides in many everyday "non-sugar" foods (Look for sugar in sauces, dressings, and even breads)

9. An overload of sugar (specifically in beverages) may shorten your life (People who consume large amounts of sweetened beverages are at a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer)

10. Sugar is making us fat (Duh!)

Peace!