Sugars are a type of
carbohydrate that occurs naturally or that is added to a food.
Foods such as
milk and fruits have naturally occurring sugars. The sugar in fruit is called fructose. The sugar in milk and yogurt is called lactose.
Added sugars are those that do not occur naturally in a food
or drink but are added during processing or preparation. Added sugars add calories but little nutrition. They can cause weight gain and prevent you from eating more nutritious foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommend you limit foods and drinks that contain added sugars.1
Lots of drinks have added sugar, such as regular soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, and energy drinks. And lots of foods have added sugar, such as cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, and candy.
Added sugars can be found in less obvious foods too. Bread, yogurt, baked beans, ketchup, and salad dressing can have a lot of added sugar. Also, foods that have reduced sodium (salt) and/or fat often have more sugar, which is used to boost the flavor.
And don't be fooled by "health foods" that may be low in saturated fat and salt but that have a lot of sugar. For example, look out for sugar in processed foods like cereal, granola, crackers, nutrition bars, drinks, and even tomato sauce. Fat-free cookies, candies, chips, and frozen treats can still be high in sugar and calories.
The best way to know the amount of added sugar is to look at the
ingredients list. Ingredient lists are ordered by weight, so if you see sugar or another name for sugar listed early in the ingredients list, that food has more sugar in it compared to the ingredients that follow it.
nutrition facts on food labels list the
total amount of sugar in the food, not just the added
sugar. But it is still a good way to know how much sugar you are eating.
Because added sugars are not always called "sugar," it can be
hard to identify them in foods. Look for these words in the ingredients:
CitationsU.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office. Also available online:
January 25, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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