As halal consumers, we understand the importance of knowing what is in our food and reading ingredient labels. This can sometimes be difficult, though, when we don’t understand the origins of ingredients. When we see “sugar” on the ingredient list, we know the product contains sugar. But what about corn syrup? Cane juice? Fruit nectar? These are all additional names for sugar that can be found in products such as bread, crackers, and fruit juice. When sugar hides in foods we don’t expect, we end up consuming much more than we should. Do you know which products filling your refrigerator and pantry are hiding some form of sugar?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists the following names for added sugars:
• anhydrous dextrose
• brown sugar
• confectioner’s powdered sugar
• corn syrup
• corn syrup solids
• high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
• invert sugar
• malt syrup
• maple syrup
• nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
• pancake syrup
• raw sugar
• white granulated sugar
There are also additional names for sugar that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recognize as ingredient names:
• cane juice
• evaporated corn sweetener
• fruit juice concentrate
• crystal dextrose
• liquid fructose
• sugar cane juice
• fruit nectar
While you can’t be fooled about the amount of sugar in a product, since the nutrition label on the package clearly states it, you can be fooled into thinking the amount of sugar in that “all natural” jam or organic fruit juice is all from the fruit. But that may be changing soon.
The FDA is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label on food products which would require a declaration of “Added Sugars,” among other changes proposed. If this change is accepted and takes effect, it will be a great asset to those consumers wanting to eliminate or limit their added sugar intake. Food companies will no longer be able to hide the added sugar in their products with ambiguous terms.
The negative effects of consuming too many added sugars are abundant. While eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes, as some might believe, it can cause weight gain, which can lead to obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes (the most common form). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans.
Over the past 30 years, there has also been an obesity epidemic sweeping the United States as Americans have increased the amount of added sugars in their diets. According to a report published earlier this year by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), almost 17 percent of 2- to 19-year-olds and almost 35 percent of adults aged 20 and older were obese.
But a relation between sugar, diabetes, and obesity is nothing new. More recently, one study concludes that there is a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), mutually exclusive of obesity. This means you can lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle – eat well, exercise, maintain a healthy weight – but still be at risk of heart disease if you are consuming too much sugar.
How much is too much? In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) drafted a new guideline to decrease the recommended added sugar intake from 10 percent of one’s daily calorie intake to 5 percent. For an adult of normal body mass index (BMI), this works out to about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar per day. While 6 teaspoons of sugar seems reasonable, you may be surprised to learn that one can of soda has an average of 40 grams of sugar, about 10 teaspoons. That is just one regular 12 ounce can. If you order a large, 32 ounce fountain soda from a fast-food restaurant, assuming it contains about 15 percent ice, you are looking at 90 grams, or almost 23 teaspoons, of sugar!
Okay, so it is really no surprise that soda is filled with sugar. But it may surprise some to know that, per serving, breakfast and granola bars contain anywhere from 12 to 19 grams of sugar; flavored instant oatmeal contains anywhere from 12 to 16 grams of sugar; “healthy” breakfast cereals contain anywhere from 11 to 17 grams of sugar; some jarred pasta sauces contain as much as 12 grams of sugar; BBQ sauce boasts 12 to 15 grams of sugar; salad dressings can contain as much as 10 grams of sugar; whole wheat bread has around 3 grams of sugar per slice; and, the biggest surprise, a 6 ounce container of flavored yogurt packs as much as 31 grams of sugar!
Flavored yogurt is probably the number one item consumers stock up on when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It makes sense – after all, yogurt is filled with protein, calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, magnesium, and, in many cases, probiotics (good bacteria). But, unless you are buying plain, unflavored yogurt, you are consuming a very sugary product. Registered Dietitian Zaira Ahmad says, “People get surprised over fruit-flavored Greek yogurts having a lot of added sugar because it’s heavily advertised as the gold standard of snacks. But when a yogurt has fruit at the bottom it’s usually rich in added sugars as well.” It’s best to purchase plain yogurt (or make it!) and flavor it yourself with fresh fruit.
While it may seem like added sugars are unavoidable, Ahmad suggests controlling the sugar in your diet by preparing your own meals and snacks. “If you have a high sugar diet, odds are you have a processed and packaged diet as well.”
We often think of sugar in the form of brownies or cookies or cake for dessert. In reality, many of us are eating it for breakfast (in our cereal and yogurt), lunch (in our sandwich bread or salad dressing), and dinner (in our pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, or marinades). “Pay attention to the label and be cognizant of what you’ve had throughout the day,” advises Ahmad. “Make having whole foods a priority.” And when that sweet tooth kicks in? Ahmad says it’s okay to satisfy your craving once in a while. She adds, “Moderation is key.”
Originally Published on http://www.ifanca.org