Are you trying to watch your intake of added sugars? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugars in daily food choices. Here’s the scoop on the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars.

Sugars in food can be either naturally occurring or added to enhance the flavor or texture of foods and drinks. Some naturally occurring sugars are found in healthful foods. For example:

  • Dairy products contain a natural form of sugar called lactose, but they also provide protein, calcium and vitamin D.
  • Fruits and vegetables may contain a variety of natural sugars, but they also provide dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Grains provide some naturally occurring sugars, as well as vitamins and minerals. And many whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber and may provide additional nutrients, too.

The term added sugar does not include sugars that are found naturally in foods.  It refers to sugars or other sweeteners that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed or prepared. For instance, in addition to desserts and other sweets, sugar may be added to foods such as breads, cereals, energy bars, ketchup, salad dressings and pasta sauces.

Added sugars may include different types of white or brown sugar. Molasses, honey and maple syrup may also be used as added sugars to sweeten foods and beverages.

Here’s the tricky part about reading ingredient lists to find added sugars — there are many different names for added sugars. Fortunately, the new Nutrition Fact Labels include information on the amount of added sugar per serving. Many manufacturers already have started to adopt the new label on their products, and the new Nutrition Facts label will appear on all food items by January 1, 2021.

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