If your family started your day with instant oatmeal and orange juice, you may have consumed all the sugar the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for anyone, ages two and up, should have in a day. Last week, the American Heart Association (AHA) set a new standard specifically for children's daily consumption of added/free sugar to only 6 teaspoons — the equivalent of about 100 calories or 25 grams - less than an 8 oz Coke — for children ages 2 to 18. The WHO goes even further and recommends everyone, age 2 and up, limit their added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons. Both organizations agree those under the age of 2 should not have any added sugar. This may seem extreme, but considering we are faced with an obesity epidemic, an obvious first step is putting a limit on unnecessary calories found in added sugars. All the added sugar we are consuming increases our risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and a lower quality of life.
Let’s talk about added/free sugars. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, added sugars include sugars, syrups and other caloric sweeteners. The WHO defines free (added) sugars as those "added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices”. Basically, these sweeteners add calories, but no nutrition!
Back to your breakfast, one cup of instant oatmeal has 14 grams of sugar and orange juice has 21 grams of added sugar per cup, so that means you would have already consumed too much sugar today. What if you had low-fat, flavored yogurt? One container of a popular brand has 29 grams of added sugar! Maybe you skipped breakfast and stopped by the coffee shop instead. According to Starbucks’ website, two popular choices -- vanilla latte and caramel macchiato -- contain more than 8 teaspoons of sugar each. Now, for your health, you should navigate eating the rest of the day without any added sugar. But sugar is hiding in so many foods!
It is easy to be confused by all the labeling and information out there regarding sugar (there are actually over 50 names for sugar)! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will force manufacturers to list a percent daily value for added sugars on product labels, but not for another two years (2018)! In the meantime, look for the following ingredients:
• High Fructose Corn Syrup / Corn Syrup
• Cane Sugar / Syrup / Juice
• Evaporated Cane Juice
• Maple Syrup
• Malt / Maltose
• Brown Rice Syrup
Not all sugar is created equal. There is a vast difference between added sugar and intrinsic sugar: sugars found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and dairy. The WHO and AHA encourage everyone to eat more of these foods because they are associated with positive health outcomes.
INTRINSIC SUGAR (those occurring naturally in a food such as whole fruit or unflavored dairy):
Fructose - from whole fruit, not juices or corn syrup
Watch out for juice! Even juice made with 100% fruit juice, although the sugar is intrinsic, it works the same on your body as added sugar because it is processed. If you eat a whole fruit, you benefit from the fiber during absorption and digestion. Skip the juice and eat whole fruit with a glass of water instead.