The 411: How Nutrition Labels Are Changing
At one point or another most of us have tried to cut down on sugar intake. These efforts, though valiant, have historically been prevented by the lack of regulation on food manufacturers who sneak added sugar into products without disclosure. The sweeter news on sugar is that after careful evaluation, the FDA has announced that by July 2018, all food packaging will contain a redesigned, more transparent, new nutrition label. In honor of the U.S. government’s leap towards promoting consumer health with the new nutrition label, we wanted to give you the rundown of added sugars and what to expect.
So what actually is added sugar?
Sugar naturally exists in the human diet. Whether in fruits, in the form of fructose, or lactose within milk, there’s no way one can avoid natural occurring sugar in its entirety. However, excessive sugar is often added to our processed foods and drinks. Sodas, candies, sports drinks, desserts, and even grains like cereals and breads are common sources of added sugars. Added sugar is often supplemented into our foods but does not contribute nutrients or aid body functionality.
These “empty” additives merely give false boosts to the body and detract from better ways to devote calories. Until today, manufacturers have used added sugars as a cheap way to add mass to products, and to hook consumers. Studies have even shown these sugars spur cravings resembling that of addictive drugs, so sugars were essentially providing these producers with life-time buyers.
Added sugar hides behind fancy words.
On current food packaging, added sugars hides behind elusive, over complicated language. If a word ends in the suffix “ose,” it likely belongs on the list of added sugars. To name a few, think: maltose, sucrose, dextrose, xylose. Other standout ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, molasses, corn sweetener, syrup, and fruit juice concentrate. In one study, Nielsen researchers discovered 206 name variations used for the same ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.
The new nutrition label and what it means
The improved Nutrition Facts Label features 4 primary amendments.
- “Serving size” and the “number of servings per container” are greater. For example, the serving size for ice cream has increased from ½ a cup to ⅔ cup. Personal thank you from all ice-cream lovers!
- And with bolder, larger font type, the new nutrition label is no longer in tiny, illegible font.
- Calories have also received an upgrade to large bold font
- “Calories from fat” has been removed after scientific evidence prioritizes type of fat over calories from fat.
- The list of required nutrients now includes Vitamin D and potassium. The %DV (daily values) have been revised after accounting for new scientific data.
- Last, but certainly not least, “Added Sugars” in grams and as %DV is required on all labels.
Implications of adding "added sugars"
The FDA’s making it easier to discern the true sugar content of processed foods. We might all see improvements in our nutrient intake within the upcoming year. Typically, consumers struggle to meet nutrient needs if added sugar comprises more than 10% of their daily calories. In the past we didn't have any knowledge of how much of our diet came from added sugar, but that is all about to change.
In the end the Nutrition Facts label was made to aid consumers in making informed food choices. Sometimes, even when we believed we were making choices to prioritize our wellness, food manufacturers have managed to deceive us. For example, while 34% of consumers state that low sugar is an important attribute when making purchase decisions for snack bars, 94% of snack bars contain added sugar. Similar stats coincide with juices and drinks, yogurt, cereal, salad dressings, bread and condiments.
These changes for the new nutrition label will create a buzz of conversation amongst communities of all kinds (ranging from food gurus to scientists). With consumers putting more thought into the macro-content of their diet, we may see a shift in the dollar sales of our favorite products.
The American Heart Association cites a woman’s daily added sugar limit at 6 teaspoons or 25 grams. At 4 calories per gram, this puts you at 100 calories daily. Now take note, this is merely a recommendation, so if your sweet tooth is unstoppable today, don’t be afraid to listen to it. We should always try to treat our bodies like the temples they are, and sometimes we can’t resist temptations.
What are the best ways to get that sugar fix?
If our go-to products turn out to be worse for our wellness than we thought, what can we turn to instead? Natural occurring sugars from fruit are always a great option and we also put together this list of 3 rock-star healthy desserts. Highly recommend giving them a try.
If you usually turn to sugar for a fast energy surge, there are other ways to boost your energy levels. Consider, going on a mid-day walk to recharge, trying alternative caffeine-free beverages, or dark chocolate.
Lastly if sugar is your go-to because you like sweet teas, coffees, and baked goods, consider sweeteners of the rawest form. People often look to honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date sugar, and maple syrup (ever heard of monkfruit sweetener?).
On those days that you want a little extra something, go for it! Just remember: everything in moderation and your body is yours. Treat it with love!
featured image by Camille Styles