Sugar is always a popular convo topic. “Is it toxic?” “Is it really THAT bad?” “Isn’t it better than artificial sweeteners?” “I’m trying to cut all sugar out of my diet.”
For the purpose of this post I want to take a minute to focus on ADDED sugar to foods.
But first, a science lesson.
Glucose or sugar will come from any foods that are carbohydrates like: milk, fruits, grains, potatoes, etc. When we eat carbohydrates they are broken down and absorbed and used for energy.
Monosaccharides are the most basic units of carbs- monosaccharides are: glucose, fructose, and galactose. Monosaccharides are the basic building blocks that make up more complex carbs like disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, maltose) , oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides (cellulose and starch).
This little lesson was to remind some people that foods that naturally contain sugars and starches are not BAD, especially when enjoyed in the right portion sizes, foods that contain sugars/starches are carbohydrates, and provide energy to our bodies.
It’s important to note that many carbohydrate containing foods have SUGARS that are just naturally apart of that food, for example:
Ok. But now let’s talk ADDED sugars. Like yogurt? You might be surprised how much added sugar/added artificial sweetener has been added to it.
So now you’re saying “but Sarah, I read my food labels, and I look at the carbs, and the sugars- doesn’t that tell me everything I NEED to know”. Well yes and no. The sugars on a product’s Nutrition Facts label include both the naturally occurring and added sugars. For instance if you look at a cup of yogurt – and it says 27 g of sugar, 30 g of carb. Without looking at the ingredients list you don’t really know if there is added sugar…. although with yogurt having that much sugar, you can venture there is added sugar.
Added sugars are a major source of excess calories, and unfortunately they have many different ways they can be labeled. So when you’re looking for added sugars you will want to keep an eye out for these terms:
Brown rice syrup
Coconut palm sugar
Corn Sweetener/corn syrup/corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Sugar Cane Syrup
White Granulated Sugar
Long list right?
I’ve mentioned yogurt a few times – so I am going to do a little activity to just drive my point home.
Serving Size = 1 5.3 oz container; Calories = 130; Total Fat = 3 g; Saturated fat = 2 g; Sodium = 55 mg; Total Carbohydrate = 12 g; Sugars = 11 g; Protein = 14 g
Ingredients: Pasteurized skim milk, pasteurized cream, strawberries, cane sugar, basil, fruit pectin, live active cultures
Serving size = 1, 5.3 oz container; Calories = 80; Total Fat: 0 g; Sodium = 45 mg; Potassium = 150 mg; Total Carbohydrate = 9 g; Sugars = 7 g; Protein = 12 g
Ingredients: Cultured grade A nonfat milk, water, blueberry puree, fructose, contains less than 1% modified corn starch, natural flavor, carmine (for color), sucralose, malic acid, potassium sorbate, acesulfame sulfate, sodium citrate
Serving size= 1, 5.3 oz container; Calories = 120; Total fat = 0; Sodium = 60 mg; Total Carbohydrate = 19 g; Sugars = 15 g; Protein = 12 g
Ingredients: Pasteurize nonfat milk, live active cultures, evaporated cane juice, blackberries, pectin, locust bean gum, natural flavors
Yogurt A = Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr in Strawberry Basil, which container 2% milk/milk fat
Yogurt B = Dannon Light and Fit Blueberry Greek Yogurt, with fat free milk, and plenty of artificial sweetener, sugar, and preservatives.
Yogurt C = Chobani Blackberry O%, Fruit on the Bottom
**All information regarding nutrition facts and ingredients lists were found on each manufacturers’ website.
None of these are really terrible, but there is clearly one that is a better choice. Hats off you Siggi’s. I have to also note that Chobani has really cleaned up their act- I remember their yogurts used to contain a lot more sugar/carb.
Dannon- their yogurt is good, but it’s filled with sugar and artificial sweetener – so yeah you’re only getting 80 calories but are they quality ones? That’s a different convo.
My point is reading your “labels” is only part of the equation of understanding what is in your food. Be aware of what you are selecting and what ingredients are in a product. Personally I am picking Siggi’s whenever I can, and after reviewing their labels – Chobani as well – although Locust bean gum? I’ll be putting that into the Google machine later…..
If you prefer Dannon – that’s fine too – just be aware you are taking in a fair amount artificial sweetener (ace K and sucralose aka Splenda). I’m not trying to demonize the food industry – again my philosophy is focusing on more wholesome choices, but essentially helping people make more informed choices.
We need carbohydrates in our diet, and let’s be honest – sugar is tasty, and enjoyable, but enjoy it in legitimate moderation.