January is usually the starting point of new year resolutions. With the hope to start fresh, most of us make plans to work out, eat healthier and look after our professional goals. But from January 20th-26th, there’s another celebration: Sugar Awareness Week, which is a good occasion to reflect on the future of sugar in our daily diets, especially considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US.
Truth-be-told, sugar is needed to fuel our bodies but the good type -called glucose- can be found naturally in carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, grains, and dairies. Actually, a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancers. The problem, however, is to consume added sugars, which are manufactured to increase product flavor or extend shelf life. Added sugars are not only found in processed foods like soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, and candy; but also in soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup. As a result, “Americans are consuming on average way too much sugar, nearly 57 pounds of added sugar per person, every year,” according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.
On the positive side, the new FDA label guidelines for the Nutrition Facts panel on food packaging are in effect for large manufacturers since January 1, 2020, and what this means is that it is now mandatory to include in product labels the added sugar value. Before changing the guidelines, the Nutrition Facts panel only showed the Total Carbohydrate, including how much of those total carbohydrates came from sugar. However, the sugar value was shown in combination with natural and added sugars, making it impossible for consumers to determine how much sugar came from each source. This important change is expected to help decrease the added sugars in products, since manufacturers may prefer to reformulate the ingredients in order to avoid having to disclose the amount of added sugars in their products.
This Sugar Awareness Week, take the time to learn more about the FDA’s new label guidelines, which empower consumers with information to help them make better decisions when purchasing their foods.