Several years ago, as I embarked on my mission to become healthier eater, one of the first goals I set was to reduce my added sugar intake. Sugar is my kryptonite. I have unbelievable cravings for sugar, but it really doesn't do me any favors.
I have been reactive hypoglycemic since I was a small child. If I eat a delicious, sweet goodie, I am a shaky, sweaty, dizzy mess two hours later, and guess what my body wants to correct that hypoglycemic state? MORE SUGAR!
When I finally took control over my added sugar intake, I reduced my hypoglycemic episodes from several per week to maybe one or two per year. I've been watching with interest as more and more research links added sugar intake to negative health outcomes and rising obesity rates.
Before I go further, let me clarify what I mean by added sugars. I eat a LOT of fruits and vegetables, and consequently, my diet has its fair share of sugar. My daily banana, for example, has about 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar. But I do try to stay away from sugars added during food production and processing, which are added sugars. Foods such as cookies, bread products, and even yogurt may contain quite a bit of added sugar.
It can be tricky to know whether you are making the healthiest food choices simply by looking at nutrition labels. While labels list the sugar contents of packaged foods, they do not distinguish between the sugars that occur naturally in the foods and the sugars that are added to improve taste and texture. Yogurt, for example, has some naturally occurring sugars in the form of lactose.
A 5.3-ounce container of full-fat, strawberry Greek yogurt contains 16 grams of sugar. Some of the sugar is naturally occurring, including the lactose from the yogurt and the fructose and glucose from the fruit. The rest is added in the form of cane sugar. By contrast, the same amount of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt would contain just over 6 grams of lactose with no added sugars.
Can either option be part of a healthy diet? Absolutely. But we can't make the best choices about how we fuel our bodies if we don't know what is in our food.
Currently, the FDA is reviewing a proposal to make it easier to know how much sugar is added to the foods we eat. The proposal would create a separate line on the nutrition label for added sugars. Seems like a no brainer, right?
Apparently not. An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times describes the efforts that food manufacturers and lobbyists (including the Sugar Association, the Dairy Institute of California, and the Cranberry Institute) are making to stop this new label from becoming a reality.
As a result of big food's powers of persuasion, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) have appealed to the FDA to block the proposed label changes.
If, like me, you believe that knowledge is power, and you are in favor of knowing about the hidden sugars lurking in the foods that you buy for your family, consider sharing your thoughts with your elected officials. Additionally, the American Heart Association has created a petition on Change.org, appealing to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to support the changes. It is currently about 3700 signatures short of its goal of 15,000.
What do you think? Are you in favor of the proposed label changes?
P.S. If you are curious as to how added sugars affect the body differently than natural sugars, here is a nice summary written by an RD.