Nutrition Facts, Labels & Ingredients: Healthy Weight & Nutrition
8. Other Red Flags
The naturally occurring sugars in some whole foods (like plain yogurt, milk, or fruit) are part of a healthy diet. If you look at the labels on these types of foods, the sugar grams may seem high. But usually, there’s no need to limit natural sugars unless they’rereallyhigh, like with some juices. "Because you’re removing all the fiber from the fruits, you’re essentially concentrating all the sugars into a bottle," Batayneh says. So be wary of even healthy-sounding juices, which can have more than 40 grams of natural sugar—way too much.
Then there are the added sugars, the kind that manufacturers add to foods to make them sweeter. How can you tell the difference between the two? Added sugars will be listed in the ingredients, while natural sugars aren't. They can go by dozens of names, but a few of the most common offenders are high fructose corn syrup or anything ending in “ose” (like glucose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, and maltose). “Food manufacturers will use different types of sugars in their products, so the sugars appear lower on the ingredient list [since ingredients are listed in descending order of weight], which can trick consumers into thinking that a food doesn’t have that much sugar,” Batayneh says.
Oh, and natural sources of added sugar—like agave nectar, sucanat, molasses, maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, coconut sugar, or brown rice syrup—all count too! No matter where it comes from, added sugar contains the same number of calories, and too much can up your risk for obesity and diabetes, Batayneh says. As for artificial sweeteners? If they’re zero-calorie, they won’t be listed as part of the total sugar grams. (More on why you should steer clear later.)
Pick packaged items that contain as little added sugar as possible. Still, finding a cereal or snack bar with 0 grams of sugar might be unrealistic. Your goal: Aim for your food to contain fewer grams of sugar than fiber, recommends Harris-Pincus.
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