Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate (CHO). It can be naturally occurring in foods or

added to foods.  Naturally occurring sugars are those found in fruits (fructose)

or milk and dairy products (lactose).

Wholefoods rich in CHO, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, are broken down into sugars as they are digested. These CHO's are an important source of energy and can contribute essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which are necessary for good health.

Added sugars - sugars and syrups added during processing or by consumers at the table - are a source of empty calories,providing energy with little or no nutritional benefit.

Major sources of added sugars in foods are:

  • Soft drinks: regular sodas, fruit drinks and ices, sweetened iced teas
  • Hot beverages: cappuccino drinks, hot cocoa
  • Baked goods: cakes, cookies, pastries
  • Breakfast foods: sweetened hot and cold cereals, breakfast bars, tarts & muffins
  • Snack foods: candies, sugary granola bars & energy bars
  • Dairy desserts: ice cream, milkshakes, some yogurts, chocolate milk & puddings

Of course, that doesn't include the table sugar, honey and syrups people add to their coffee, tea, breakfast cereals, pancakes and waffles.

Why care about sugar?  Because added sugars contribute hidden calories that can lead to weight gain and the health problems associated with overweight and obesity, like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

How do you find the sugar content in packaged foods? Check the labels!

Look at the ingredients list on labels for the many types of sugar:

  • Words ending in -ose, such as maltose or sucrose
  • Corn syrup or sweeteners
  • Cane sugar, brown sugar or raw sugar
  • Syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrates

Look at the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of sugar, both natural and added.  There are 4 calories/gram of sugar, so if a product has 10 grams, 40 calories come from the sugar alone.  For example:

  • 8 oz. soda pop has about 25g sugar & all 100 calories come from sugar
  • Instant snack pack pudding cup - 16g sugar, 130 calories (64 cals from sugar)
  • 1 scoop premium ice cream - 21g sugar, 240 calories (84 cals from sugar)

How much to eat and still be healthy? Health experts suggest limiting sugar to less than 10% of total cals per day, or about 100 cals from sugar (25g or 6 tsp.) for women and 150 cals from sugar (37.5g or 9 tsp.) for men.

So,to be your healthiest, become a sugar detective: READ LABELS & LIMIT THOSE ADDED SUGARS!

Written by:  Mary Jo Parker, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Consultant to Personal Touch Food Services, Inc.