HEALTHY LIVING

Here's Why Nutrition Labels Should List Added Sugar

02/03/2015 05:24 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2015

“It’s definitely easy not to be aware how much sugar you’re consuming," says the University of California, Davis' Kimber Stanhope.

In the latest episode of Fig. 1, a web series that focuses on new ideas and research coming out of the UC system, Stanhope says that the American Heart Association recommends women consume twenty-five grams of added sugar per day.

"It’s enlightening picking up the large candy bars or those single package cookies and see how many of them you cannot eat without going over that recommendation," she points out.

Indeed. Despite health experts' pleas for people to eat less sugar, Americans are consuming way too much of it. And one problem is that it's hard to tell how much added sugar we're actually eating.

“I want to know how much [of a serving of food] is added sugar," Stanhope says. "I can’t even tell, and I’m a registered dietician who has taken lots of nutrition courses.”

The Food and Drug Administration is hoping to change with a proposal for new nutrition labels. If approved as proposed, they'll not only continue to show how much total sugar is in our food, but list exactly how much added sugar goes into one serving.

added sugar

Why is added sugar so bad? Added sugar, unlike naturally occurring sugars, doesn't come packaged with other nutritional benefits. For example, fruit naturally contains sugar, and it's made up of glucose and fructose, the same components as table sugar. But fruit also offers benefits like vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, and has less sugar by volume.

Added sugar, on the other hand, has no nutritional benefit and tacks on a lot of calories.

Although the World Health Organization recommends that added sugar be limited to 10 percent of a person's daily caloric intake, most Americans are eating more than that.

"For the average American, 16 percent of their total daily calories come from added sugars," the FDA's website reads. "The major sources are soda, energy and sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts and candy. But foods packed with more nutrition can have added sugar as well, such as cereals, fruit packed in syrup and sweetened yogurt."

The new labels were proposed in 2014, but Jennifer Dooren, a spokesperson for the FDA, said that it's impossible to say when they'll actually hit food products.

"The agency is currently going through the comments on the nutrition facts label and serving size proposed rules," she told The Huffington Post. "We had almost 290,000 on the nutrition facts label. I cannot comment on a timeline as to when the proposals will be made final."

Related on HuffPost:

  • Whole-wheat crackers, 8
    bhofack/iStock/360/Getty Images
    Up to 12 grams sugar

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
  • Crispy chicken and spinach salad, prepared in a restaurant
    TBird59/iStock/360/Getty Images
    Up to 13 grams sugar

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
  • Tomato basil soup, 1 can
    molka/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 13-22 grams sugar

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
  • Crunchy broccoli salad, 1/2 cup
    ElenaFabbrili/iStock/Thinkstock
    7 grams sugar

    Source: Kraft recipes
  • Energy drinks, 8-ounce bottle*
    Up to 21–30 grams
    *Some energy drinks are sold in 16-ounce bottles

    Source: University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition fact sheet
  • Yogurt, single serving-size cup (usually 6 ounces)
    moranaF/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 25–34 grams of sugar

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
  • Coleslaw, 2 tablespoons
    TheMalni/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 12 grams of sugar

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Baked beans, 1/2 cup
    Ju-Lee/iStock/Thinkstock
    11–16 grams of sugar

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Beef jerky, 1 serving
    bhofack2/iStock/Thinkstock
    4–6 grams of sugar

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Vanilla almond milk, 1 cup
    bhofack2/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 14 grams of sugar
    (Unsweetened almond milk: 0 grams sugar)

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Hamburger buns, 1 bun
    sautepl/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 3–6 grams

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Teriyaki marinade
    Svetlana Kolpakova/Hemera/Thinkstock
    Up to 8 grams sugar

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
  • Cereal bars, 1 bar
    rzeszutek/iStock/Thinkstock
    12 grams of sugar, on average

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Hot cereal, 1 envelope
    AbbieImages/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 7–12 grams

    Source: Sugar Has 56 Names: A Shopper's Guide, by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL
  • Dark chocolate, 1 bar
    Zakharova_Natalia/iStock/Thinkstock
    Up to 16–21 grams
    (You can find dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao with as little as 5 grams of sugar)

    Source: Eat It to Beat It! by David Zinczenko
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