Awareness is the first vital step towards any change in life, whether the focus is on health, fitness, career options or relationships. When it comes to diet and nutrition, the food label that appears on most packaged foods available today in the grocery store is a wealth of information, some of it confusing. Without a little perspective that information can be underutilized by the average consumer. But, if you focus on one simple piece of crucial information, you will go a long way to making the food label work for you.
We’ve been barraged for decades now about the evils of added sugar in the diet. The alluring white menace has been tied in with many chronic, debilitating diseases as well as being a major contributor to weight gain. Some have even gone so far as to compare sugar to heroin in its propensity to create addiction and control our lives.
Knowing these facts, however, is not going to be enough to help you navigate the nutrition label to your benefit. What do you see when the nutrition label states 16 grams of sugar in your favorite breakfast cereal? Is 16 grams a lot? How much is too much?
The World Health Organization has re-evaluated its stand on the recommended limits of sugar intake and determined that 25 grams of added sugar per day is the goal every healthy adult should strive to maintain.
If 25 grams sounds like a lot, consider this. Four grams of sugar is the equivalent of one teaspoon. That 25 gram goal set by the World Health Organization is roughly equal to six teaspoons.
If you think that sounds like quite a lot of added sugar, you’re right. You would never consciously sit down and scoop up that much sugar. However, most adults far exceed that amount. That is due, in large part, to the fact that few people bother to translate the number of grams they see on the label to the number of teaspoons of sugar they are actually consuming.
The other issue is many adults fail to realize just how much added sugar is in the foods and beverages they consume on a daily basis. A regular can of soda can have as much as 40 grams, or ten teaspoons, of sugar! Even that favorite breakfast cereal can have 16 or more grams, equal to four or more teaspoons!
As you can see, it’s disturbingly easy to exceed the recommended limits of sugar intake. You might even get to that limit before lunch.
To complicate matters more, added sugar can show up in the places you might never think to look. Many “healthy” foods are loaded with added sugar. When food manufacturers remove the fat, which is a huge source of flavor in many foods, they often increase the sugar content to make those foods tasty.
Would you suspect your tomato sauce or pasta sauce to be a significant source of added sugar? Read the label. What about that fat-free salad dressing? Take a look at the label on your favorite brand of yogurt. Guilty, every one.
The moral of this story is simple. Every four grams of added sugar is an extra teaspoons of sugar in your diet. Now that you know this simple calculation you should understand the importance of reading the food label every time.