Friday, June 27, 2014

Reading Food Labels - SUGAR

First off HUGE disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist…not even remotely close, but this is information is based on a wealth of knowledge I've been exposed to as part of the I Quit Sugar program, some online research of my own, with some links to back it up.  This post is simply meant to get you thinking about sugar on food labels and what to watch out for if you are thinking about cutting down on your sugar intake.

I've mentioned it before but the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women (9 for men).  According to a recent Forbes article most americans are eating about 35 teaspoons a day on average.

Even more recently (March 2014), the World Health Organization (WHO) opened public consultation on their recommended limits for sugar intake that echo those of the AHA, about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day.  This equates to about 5% of your total energy intake for the day.  But you know the craziest thing…have you ever noticed that there is not % daily value calculation for sugar on all nutritional labels?  There are guidelines on percentages of daily value for fat, sodium, fiber, carbs, and vitamins…but NOT sugar…hmmm.


Now the debate is still out on whether to include fruit in those 6 teaspoons per day but the I Quit Sugar program argues that while fruit is obviously a way better choice than a can of coke for other reasons, once fructose enters the body it is all the same…straight to the liver and turned into fat when consumed in large quantities.  My personal goal is to only consume 6 teaspoons or less per day and including fruit in that number.

Let's dissect some common "health" foods for their sugar content shall we?


Yogurt is excellent for you, good dairy and probiotic source but combine that with fruit the way most companies do you can end up with a sugar bomb!

Let's take Chobani 16oz blueberry blended yogurt.  Greek yogurt, that's healthy right? Fruit…healthy? Well take a look a the label and you can see there are 23 grams of sugar per serving in this container and you are lying to yourself if you say you don't eat the entire container at one time…so there is whopping 46 grams of sugar in this container.

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon by the way so…

46 grams of sugar = 11.5 teaspoons <---already over your daily limit in this one snack.

Now choosing a plain yogurt is a way better option!  Chobani 2% plain greek yogurt contains 6 grams of sugar per serving. Now here is where it gets a bit trickier. In terms of dairy the first 4.7 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving is all lactose (milk sugar)…not fructose, so sugar in dairy is actually a-ok under these levels.  So how does this yogurt stack up?

This serving has 6 grams per 227 grams serving so 227/100 = 2.27 100 gram servings.  Take the 6 grams of sugar and divide it by the 2.27 100 gram servings and you have about 2.64 grams sugar / 100 grams…hey this yogurt is a-ok! No fructose here! Can't stand the taste of plain yogurt? Add some low fructose fresh berries like blueberries or raspberries and you are still way better off than eating the Blueberry blended above.

Nutritional Bars

Protein bars seem to be all the rage lately, but besides the fact that many contain ingredients you can barely name they are usually full of sugar, sometimes disguised in other names.  For example…


Each bar contains 13 grams of sugar but the thing to watch out for here is sugar listed in the first few ingredients as circled above.  Sugar comes in all forms and nutritional bars use all sorts of things to sweeten that just add to the sugar number.

What about LaraBars…they just use whole natural ingredients right? Well that may be the case but they pack their bars full of dried fruit with dates being the main culprit. Most of their bars have over 20 grams of sugar in them…pretty much your entire daily allowance.

Cherry Pie Larabar's sugar is just from dates and cherries!

Bottom Line

Am I saying don't eat any of these things? Absolutely not, you can make your own choices but I just wanted to throw the information out there so you can use it if you are looking to cut back on your sugar consumption.  If you decide to follow 6-9 teaspoon/day rule you can choose to fill those teaspoons in whatever way you see fit! Once I get through my 8-week program I'll share how I fill up those 6 teaspoons a day.

I'll leave you with this following thought.  If nutritional labels had a % daily value for sugar listed, then according to current AHA and WHO guidelines one Larabar, one bar of candy, one smoothie would be 100% of your daily value for sugar.  I don't know about you but I try not to consume 100% of my fat or calories with one snack…just a thought ;).

Question: Did this confuse you more? Will you check out the sugar content on products now? Any questions?

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