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New food nutrition labels now list ‘added sugars’

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The useful nutrition labels on foods now contain a new element: Added Sugars.

The listing now allows consumers to tell how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much is added. This can be important when comparing products.

One example, according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter: Compare 12 ounces of lemon-lime soda to 100 percent pineapple juice. Twelve ounces of either drink contain 38 grams of sugar. The difference is that all of the sugar in soda is added, while the pineapple juice contains all naturally occurring sugars that are also good sources of vitamin C, Thiamin, folate and vitamin B6.

The information can also help with food choices. Higher intake of added sugars has been associated with heart disease and metabolic syndrome, according to Alice Lichtenstein of Tufts.

So you want to keep your consumption of added sugars low. On the new labels, you will be able to see the percentage of daily value of the added sugars. If the value of added sugar is 5 percent or less, it is a low-sugar food.

If the value is 20 percent or more, it is a high sugar food. It’s a good idea to limit the added sugars to less than 10 percent of daily calories.

In evaluating nutrition, first look for the  total gram weight of sugar in the product. Below that total sugar number you will find the amount of sugar that was added.  So a product with a total of 12 grams of sugar might be comprised of 10 grams of added sugar. This means that only 2 grams of sugar naturally occur in the product itself.

Added sugars are not just cane sugar, but also ingredients like concentrated fruit juices, maple syrup, molasses and even honey — anything that is added to the food to create extra sweetness. These always raise the calorie count but may not necessarily add nutrition.

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