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Added Sugars and Food Labels: What to Look Out For

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One thing I've noticed when I meet with patients is their mystery at reading a food label. What are we looking for? How should we evaluate added sugars? Watch this video and read on to learn more. 

10 to 20 years ago, we were looking for fat, and the manufacturers broke down the fat in polyunsaturated, saturated monounsaturated, and saturated. So here we are 10 to 20 years later, and I've said this before, we realized it wasn't the fat that was making everybody fat. It's the sugar. The replacement of fat with sugar to compensate for the flavor loss.

What does sugar do in your body? 

All that sugar does is get converted to energy immediately and raises your blood sugar. The pancreas secretes insulin to get that sugar out of your bloodstream, so you don't become diabetic and create insulin resistance. And all of that energy, the food that you've eaten, becomes stored energy, a fancy term for fat.

Identifying Added Sugars in Juices

So what are we looking for if we are not eating whole foods? We should try to eat as many whole foods as we can. But if we pick up a packaged food, like a juice, what are we looking for?

If we're going to look at this juice and say to ourselves, "Well, this juice has to be good because there are no added sugars." So that's the newest gimmick by the FDA and somewhat misleading to put on a label about added sugar, especially when it comes to juice because they're not telling how concentrated that juice has become going from its natural source.

An apple contains about 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar. 12 to 14 grams, depending on the size of the apple. Also within here is four grams of naturally occurring, beneficial fiber. What that does is give your body a slow release when you eat this, you get the fiber and this naturally occurring sugar is slowly released into your body for sustained energy. It's not going to spike your blood sugar.

If, on the other hand, you drink this apple juice that contains three times as much sugar because it's been highly processed and concentrated. This is going to shoot your blood sugar up immediately. You may get some of the vitamin effects. You will get none of the fiber effects, and you will get a lot of the obesity weight gain effects from what we've seen in this country from juice.

One of the most misleading juices is our lovely cranberry juice. They fought with lobbyists down in Washington to make sure that you never really notice how little juice is actually in here. Highly pasteurized, high in sugar, and the benefits of the cranberry fruit can be minimal. You would need to go to the natural food store and buy one that doesn't taste quite so good and then see what you're really getting in difference. And that's just a straight product.

When we go to oranges, it's the same thing with orange juice. An orange is going to have about 10 grams of naturally occurring sugar. If you drink that orange juice, you're going to get almost three or four times that amount of sugar that's going to do the same thing and spike your blood sugar level up.

Juices can be very misleading because they are going to give you the sugar grams. It's going to give you 24 sugar grams but it's going to say zero added sugar. As a consumer, you may say, "Well, that's wonderful because it's not added sugar." It's still sugar. The more you can stick to whole foods, the better in everything you do.

But if you do pick up packaged processed product and you need that something in your day, you want to keep those sugars low, because every four grams of sugar equals a teaspoon of sugar.

And anytime we're getting into any packaged or processed, remember, manufacturers are going to lose a lot of money when they make products that don't stay on the shelf long. There's a lot of stuff in there that is made to make it shelf stable. It's highly processed. It's converted quickly into your system, going right to storage, not giving you fiber, not giving you sustained energy. The more you can stick to whole foods the better.

Added Sugars and Dried Fruits

For example, let's do one more. Let's look at prunes.. They should be great. They contain 24 grams carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar. Zero added sugars. You'd say, "Well, this is good." Every time you dry a fruit, you are concentrating that sugar.

You can get a lot more fiber from natural vegetables like cabbage and brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Cauliflower, that's another one. All of those wonderful vegetables. So just watch that. Be aware of anything packaged on the added sugars.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out. Inform yourselves. Takes a little while at the beginning when you start to read labels while you're grocery shopping, but then all of a sudden, you know. You have armed yourself with that information to say, "okay I'm going to choose something smart and healthy for me that's going to give me sustained energy and maintain my blood sugar," and that will keep you feeling satiated and satisfied. 

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