The phrase “sugar is the enemy!” is not welcome here.
Just a few days ago, at this year’s Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in Washington, D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a brand new Nutrition Facts label, which hasn’t received a major update in 20 (!) years.
“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” she said. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.” (The label will be seen in stores starting in 2018.)
One of the biggest updates that caught our attention: Food companies will be required to list the amount of “Added Sugars” in their products. It made us think we should have a conversation about sugar — setting the record straight by explaining some important truths, and bustin’ up some common myths!
Myth 1: If you’re cutting out sugar, you should really think about cutting out carbs.
Sugar occurs naturally in our environment and in the foods that we eat — commonly in the form of fructose (fruit) and lactose (dairy), not to mention the fact that all carbohydrates break down into tiny glucose molecules before they’re absorbed into your blood stream and used for energy.
Myth 2: Juice doesn’t have added sugar since it’s made from fruit.
Sorry, but nope! Juice, especially from concentrate, is considered a sugary beverage. This type in particular will have added sugar in it, not to mention the fancier “cold pressed” versions that are often completely devoid of all other nutrients and are just delivering sugar to your body! Try eating fruit in its natural form instead of juice; add 1/4 cup of juice to sparkling water or tap, or look for fresh-squeezed versions and treat yourself to a 1/2-cup serving instead.
Myth 3: If it doesn’t say “sugar” on the food label, it probably doesn’t have too much of it.
Not so! When browsing ingredients labels, look out for anything that ends with the words sugar (like coconut sugar), sweetener, or syrup, as well as words ending in “-ose” (like dextrose), agave, honey, malt, molasses, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrate. These are all hidden sugar bombs.
Myth 4: If it doesn’t taste sweet, it’s not “sugary.”
I am actually less concerned about the added sugar you know you’re eating, like sweets, versus the sugar that’s sneaking into your diet in the form of beverages, cereal, pasta sauce, and salad dressings (just to name a few). That’s why it’s so important to check food labels and to make sure you read ingredients carefully. Common savory culprits, like sauces and dips, are just as susceptible to food processing, so check labels before purchasing.
Myth 5: If you’re avoiding sugar, you can’t have dessert.
This one is my favorite myth to bust! Here’s what I love about dessert — it’s completely, 100% transparent in that what you see is what you get. When I reach for a piece of chocolate, I’m making a conscious decision to have a treat. And when I reach for the other foods I love — fruits and veggies are my diet mainstay — I’m eating as close to nature as possible. But it’s those sneaky sources of sugar that are the ones that you, the First Lady and I, all have to watch out for. When you limit these, you can truly have your cake and eat it too.