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How to spot “hidden” sugars

Karen Miller | 3/10/2014, 6 a.m.

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A closer look Because this is a juice drink people assume it is healthy. It does contain some juice, but most of the sugars are added, not natural. Learn to read between the lines. While the first ingredient is water, the next five are sugars, but the word “sugar” is listed only once. One serving (one cup) of this fruit drink contains 120 calories and 31 grams or almost 8 teaspoons of sugar, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit of added sugars. One teaspoon of sugar has about 4 grams of sugar and 16 calories.

People often consume more sugar than they need or even realize. That’s because sugar goes by several different names. Sugar is not necessarily bad for you. The body requires it as a source of energy, but there are two types of the nutrient. Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods such as fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose) and are chock full of nutrients the body requires to function properly.

Added sugars, on the other hand, such as honey and syrup, are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. Added sugars contribute no nutrients and are often the culprit behind obesity, which can lead to several chronic illnesses, such as heart disease. The problem is the body does not know the difference between sugars. Those with diabetes must be ever vigilant to monitor the amount consumed to keep their blood sugar in check.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine teaspoons for men. It is estimated, however, that Americans consume more than 22 teaspoons a day. One teaspoon of sugar has about four grams of sugar and 16 calories.

Nutrition labels list only the total grams of sugar in a serving of a product and do not specify whether it is natural or added. That’s why it is necessary to learn to spot the “hidden” sugars by reading the list of ingredients as well. Below are a few examples.

  • Words ending in “ose,” such as fructose, maltose and sucrose
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup and corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrates