For years, we have been proponents of improved nutrition labeling on food products. There are various loopholes and tricks manufacturers use to embellish the nutritional value of their products. Labeling trans-fats as zero when they aren’t is one example.
Sugar is an interesting nutrient. We are all consuming way too much sugar daily. According to all health organizations, people should drastically reduce the amount of added sugars they consume. But if one turns to the nutrition facts label of products, the only sugar info available is “sugars”, which is a sum of naturally occurring sugars in a product and the added sugars.
The FDA recently asked for comments from the public on the matter. All the food companies that commented on the FDA website sided with NO CHANGES to the existing label. The reasoning: added information would only serve to confuse consumers. Lame.
The real reason that manufactures don’t want us to know the sugar breakdown is that we would be shocked as to how much is added to almost all products. Take Chocolate milk, with 3 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar PLUS 3 added teaspoons of sugar. Per cup. That’s more sugar than most people would add to coffee or tea. How many people would return a product to the shelf if they knew the exact amount of added sugar?
Here’s an example of a healthy product, Greek Yogurt and its sugar load:
Chobani Blueberry Yogurt contains 20 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 5 teaspoons. The sugar comes from 3 sources:
- lactose that is naturally found in dairy products
- evaporated cane juice
The first two sources are naturally occurring sugars. The last one is added sugar. Now then, how much of the 20 grams of sugar are added?
Nobody knows. Except for the manufacturer.
Let’s do some math, shall we?
The plain version of Chobani Greek yogurt has 7 grams of sugar. This means that the blueberry and cane juice account for 13 grams of sugars.
20 – 7 = 13
Now if blueberries were accountable for a majority of the 13 grams that would be great, but since blueberries are 85% water by weight, we can safely impute that less than 3 grams of sugar come from the blueberries.
20 – 7 – 3 = 10
That leaves 10 grams of added sugar in the product. That’s 2 and a half teaspoons.
Are 2.5 tsp of added sugars in a yogurt bad? good?
You can decide for yourself by buying plain yogurt, adding blueberries, and then adding sugar on your own. Will you add one teaspoon of sugar? Two? More?…That’s up to you.
But you’ll never be able to make an educated purchase decision if the only data point you have on a product’s package is total sugars.