5 On Your Side

Experts: Health conscious shoppers need to pay extra attention to added sugars

Posted April 19

How much sugar have you eaten today? Hint: It's probably much more than you think.

Food companies add sugar to almost three-quarters of all packaged products, and the cumulative effects of eating too much over time can be harmful.

"It does raise your risk of obesity, but it also raises your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes," Consumer Reports' health editor Trisha Calvo said.

Experts say added sugars shouldn't account for more than 10 percent of an average adult's daily calories.

For women, that comes out to about 6 teaspoons. For men, it's 11 teaspoons.

In recent tests, Consumer Reports found that similar foods can have widely varied sugar counts.

A one-and-a-quarter cup serving of Original Cheerios has a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar. The same serving size of Cheerios Protein has more than four teaspoons.

Frozen entrees should also be eaten sparingly, particularly those with sauce.

Amy's Asian Noodle Stir Fry has four teaspoons of sugar, but Amy's Asian Thai Stir Fry has less than one.

Mott's Natural applesauce has three teaspoons of sugars all from the apples, but Mott's Original applesauce has twice that because of added sugar.

“The type of sugar matters. The natural sugars in fruit, they’re not really so much of a problem for your health. What matters is added sugars," Calvo said. "So, look on food labels for things like sucrose, dextrose. But you also want to be careful of things that sound healthy, like evaporated cane juice or agave nectar. Those are added sugars, too.”

The takeaway, Consumer Reports says, is that consumers should add sugar to the list of things they look for when label-gazing at the grocery store.

On most labels, sugars are listed in grams (there are four grams per teaspoon). If the Food and Drug Administration has its way, packages will soon list added sugars on a separate line similar to the way total fat and saturated fat are listed.

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