Savvy Shoppers Look for Added Sugar
Sugar in food has two forms: added sugar or natural sugar. Added sugar is always listed on the ingredient list. It can be listed as something other than sugar such as corn syrup, sucrose, cane juice, malt syrup, and even fruit nectar. On the right is a list of some of these names. You can read more about the types of added sugar.
There are only a few types of naturally occurring sugar. One of these is found in milk, which is called lactose. Another is found in fruit, which is called fructose. Naturally occurring sugar is not listed on the ingredient list—it is not an added ingredient. If the sugar is not on the ingredient list, it is a naturally occurring sugar.
ALL types of sugar are carbohydrates, regardless of whether they occur naturally or are added by food manufacturers, but here are two big differences.
First, most food products with only natural sugar contain many other important nutrients. For example, 1% milk, as well as fruit, contains essential nutrients in addition to naturally occurring sugar. The nutrition label on 1% milk shows that one cup of milk contains sugar, protein, Vitamin A, and calcium, and many other important essential nutrients. Fruit, which contains natural sugar, is also an important source of essential nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and many more.
In contrast, many foods with added sugar have low nutritional value and are often described as sources of “empty calories.” These foods just add extra calories with no vitamins and minerals. For example, the nutrition label of cola, which is considered an empty calorie, list no essential nutrients.
A second difference is the amount of sugar. Foods with only natural sugar usually contain fewer total grams of sugar. For instance, as the nutrition label illustrates, one cup of 1% milk contains 12 grams of sugar. In contrast, one cup of soda contains 26 grams of sugar—more than twice as much as one cup of 1% milk.
To be a savvy consumer, read the ingredient list and choose foods with less added sugar. Another healthy habit is to choose foods with naturally occurring sugar more often, like unflavored 1% milk or a piece of fruit.
To read more about added sugars, follow this link.