Decoding Food Labels: Unraveling the Mystery of Natural and Added Sugar
For years, distinguishing between natural sugar and added sugar on food labels has been a source of confusion. Even as bariatric patients, making the right choices when it comes to sugar intake can be challenging, especially when it involves dairy products. In this article, we will clarify the distinction between these two types of sugars and provide tips on how to read food labels effectively.
What Are Natural Sugar and Added Sugar?
Natural sugar, such as fructose in fruits and lactose in dairy products, is inherent in these raw or base foods. On the other hand, added sugars encompass white, brown or powdered sugar, as well as high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey. To identify whether a product contains added sugar, examine the list of ingredients under the Nutrition Facts box on the label.
Differentiating Between Natural and Added Sugar
To navigate food labels, locate the ingredients list. The key is to differentiate between ingredients that add sugar (such as high fructose corn syrup and sucrose) and those that contain natural sugar. For instance, a can of HUNTS TOMATOES may display grams of sugar on the label, even though it only contains tomatoes. This is because tomatoes have natural sugar, and consuming 10g of sugar from a tomato is different from consuming 10g of sugar from candy.
Recognizing Sources of Natural and Added Sugar
Identifying sources of natural and added sugars may require some learning. It can be confusing since fructose is also used as an added sugar. For example, when the first ingredient in a Bolthouse Farms 100% Juice Blueberry drink is grape juice concentrate, that fructose is considered an added sugar. It's important to read the Nutrition Stats and Ingredients on the label of products like yogurt to determine whether the sugar content is natural from the milk or added as a sweetener.
As bariatric patients, the goal is to minimize added sugar intake. While plain Greek yogurt contains 8 to 15 grams of natural sugar (lactose) from the milk, it also provides 10 to 15 grams of protein, making it a favorable food choice. To add flavor without excessive added sugar, consider incorporating cooked blueberries slightly sweetened with a natural sweetener like Truvia. This homemade blueberry sauce contains 4 grams of natural sugar but offers valuable antioxidants and nutrients.
In the past, fat-free milk was considered harmful for bariatric patients. However, it has since been discovered that the vitamin D and natural form of calcium in milk make it a beneficial option. The 11 grams of sugar found in a glass of fat-free milk is not added sugar but rather lactose, the natural sugar in milk. While milk is not calorie-free, it provides essential nutrition.
Balancing Your Choices
When it comes to sugar, it's all about finding the right balance. Empty calories should be avoided, while nutrient-rich calories should be embraced. By becoming familiar with the sources of natural and added sugars and reading food labels carefully, you can make informed decisions and maintain a healthy diet.
Understanding how to differentiate between natural sugar and added sugar on food labels is crucial, especially for bariatric patients. By paying attention to ingredient lists and making thoughtful choices, you can manage your sugar intake effectively. Remember, it's about finding a balance and prioritizing nutrient-rich calories over empty ones.