The “Sweet” Truth About Foods With Added Sugar
Most Americans eat and drink too many calories from foods with added sugar. “Added sugars” are sugars or syrups that companies add to foods and beverages to make them sweeter. They are not the sugars naturally found in some foods, such as fruit or milk. Added sugars give you a lot of calories with almost no nutrients.
If you have diabetes, your healthcare provider may have already suggested that you avoid drinks with added sugars. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and if you have diabetes, you need to check how much added sugar you are getting from each food and drinks. This will help keep your blood glucose where you want it.
The most common drink sources of added sugars for Americans are:
- Fruit drinks, fruit punch, and fruit-juice blends
- Soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks
Do you really know how much added sugar is in the beverages you drink? If you are like most Americans, you may not realize how much sugar and what types of sugar you are drinking. More than 3,000 adults were asked to answer a few questions in an online survey about their drinking habits. People were asked questions about what they drink, how much they drink, and what they know about the ingredients in different drinks.
What do you like to drink?
According to the online poll, water was the most popular drink. After water, the following drinks were reported from most popular to least popular:
- “Other beverages” like coffee or tea
- Sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks (added sugars)
- Milk (natural sugars)
- Diet Drinks (no sugars)
- 100% fruit juice (natural sugars)
- Fruit blends like fruit drinks, fruit cocktails, and fruit punch (added sugars)
“Sweet” versus “Sugary”
In the online survey, many people were quizzed about what a “sugary” drink is. Researchers wanted to find out if people knew how to tell if a drink was sugary or not. They found that many people thought “sweet” drinks were always “sugary” drinks. This is not always true.
- Diet Drinks: Researchers found that almost half of the people thought diet drinks were “sugary” drinks. A diet drink is sweet but it does not have added sugar. They are sugar-free!
- 100% fruit juice: A little less than half of the study members said 100% fruit juices are “sugary.” Although 100% fruit juices have sugar, it is not added sugar. 100% fruit juice has natural sugars from fruit. It also comes with important nutrients like vitamin C. Added sugars do not naturally come with vitamins and minerals. So juice is a healthy choice if you drink the right portion size and count it into your meal plan. Double check the label to make sure it says 100% juice with no sugar added.
- Milk: More than a third of study members though milk was sugar-free because it is not sweet. This is not true. Milk contains a natural sugar called “lactose.” Unlike added sugars, however, milk contains many vitamins and minerals important for your health, such as calcium and vitamin D. This is also a healthy choice if you drink the right portion size. Choose low fat or non-fat milk, and make sure to count the carbohydrates in your meal plan.
How to Spot Sugar
Just a single serving of fruit drinks, regular soft drinks, or energy drinks can raise your blood glucose and give you too many calories. How can you make sure you are not drinking something with added sugars?
There are many different names for sugar. Look on the drink label to find any of the following clues that there are added sugars:
- Sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose
- Corn syrup, corn syrup solids
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, pancake syrup, nectars
How to Stop Drinking Too Much Sugar
There are many easy ways to cut back on added sugars while still enjoying a tasty and refreshing drink. Choose low-calorie or zero-calorie drinks, such as:
- Water: If you find yourself bored with water after a while, flavor it with a splash of lemon or lime juice, or add some frozen berries to keep it naturally sweet.
- Unsweetened tea (hot or iced)
- Diet soft drinks: These drinks are usually sweetened with artificial sweeteners, not added sugars. This will take out most or all of the calories and carbohydrates in the drink.
- Coffee: If you want the taste of cream and sugar, try sugar-free syrup and non-fat or low-fat milk.
- Low-calorie drinks or drink mixes: These low-calorie choices can give you the same fruity sweetness of regular lemonade or fruit punch with much less sugar and fewer calories.