August 29, 2011
Jonnell, Registered Dietitian
Last Saturday I was offering samples of peanut butter banana “ice cream” (made with only bananas and Harmons’ freshly ground peanut butter) and touting the benefits of a summer treat without added sugar. Afterward, I wondered if everybody understood why limiting added sugar is important and if they knew how to identify added sugar.
First, let me say that I am not talking about eliminating foods with added sugar. However, that being said, there are several reasons why limiting added sugar is important. Foods with added sugars may be replacing foods that are more nutritious, so you may be missing key nutrients in your diet if your intake of added sugars is high. Weight gain may occur if the calories from these added sugars are not taken into account. Higher intakes of added sugar have been linked to increased triglyceride (a type of fat) levels and lower HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels, both of which increase the risk for heart disease. Additionally, there is some new research that suggests that lowering intake of added sugar may help lower blood pressure. So there are many potential health benefits to reducing your intake of added sugars.
So, how do you identify added sugars versus natural sugars? The current food label does not distinguish total sugars from added sugars, so the best way to identify added sugars is to read the ingredient list. There are many names for added sugar in addition to those you may be familiar with like sugar, honey, and molasses. Many of those will either end in –ose or will have the word “syrup” in their name. If you want to know how much added sugar is in a product, you could try comparing an unsweetened version of the product to the sweetened version (such as comparing plain yogurt to sweetened yogurt). So make it a goal to reduce your intake of added sugars today as a step toward improving your health!