Food labels are an excellent resource to help you keep track of your sugar intake, but they can also be confusing. Recently, my husband, who is new to reading food labels, was alarmed to see 11 grams in his favorite plain skim milk! He thought he was being so good by choosing fat-free dairy, but couldn’t figure out where the sweetener was coming from. That generated a discussion about “natural” ones as opposed to “added” ones.
Sweeteners are simple carbohydrates. They can be natural (lactose in milk or fructose in fruit) or refined (table sugar).
They are absorbed quickly in the bloodstream and create havoc on your insulin levels. This insulin imbalance promotes weight gain.
The amount of sweetener is always listed in grams on the nutrition fact label. It’s important to remember that 4 grams is equivalent to one teaspoon. This includes sweetener that is found naturally in foods.
The words listed below are basically synonyms. They all indicate that sweeteners have been added:
- Corn syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice
There is no Percent Daily Value (% DV) for sweetener because there is no quantity established for us to consume each day. If the items listed above appear early and often in the food product’s list of ingredients, you’ll know that sweetener is predominant and you can make your decisions accordingly.
Shockingly, an average piece of chocolate cake can have 25 teaspoons of sweetener! A 12-ounce can of soda has 8 teaspoons!
The use of artificial sweeteners has increased dramatically in recent years. Once thought to be the solution, it is now considered to be part of the problem.
NOTE: There are quite a few health experts that believe consuming sugar is better for you than consuming artificial sweeteners of any kind. Even though it weighs in at 16 calories per packet, it is a substance that your body recognizes as food, and understands how to process.
Did You Know?
USA Today, June 2012
The average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, totaling 355 calories! The "recommended" amount is 6-9 teaspoons, totaling 100-150 calories. Much of this is consumed in the form of sweet beverages, which do not make us feel as full as when we eat the same number of calories.
You can cut the sweetener required in a recipe by 1/4, and save a bunch of calories without sacrificing taste.
An alternative is an herb called Stevia. This extremely sweet, non-caloric herb, is from the Chrysanthemum family. It grows wild as a small shrub in Paraguay and Brazil, and has been used safely for centuries by the native Indians in those countries.
Stevia side effects are basically non-existent: with a market share of over 40%, the “sweet leaf” has been the number one sweetener in Japan since the 1970’s, with no reports of any discomforts whatsoever.
Products made from Stevia (“cut” with erythritol to reduce sweetness) such as Truvia and PureVia are currently on the market.
Dr. Oz gave his approval to Stevia first, but now the Food and Drug Administration has finally approved it for use in foods.
Prior to the recent FDA approval, it could be sold in the US, but only as a dietary supplement, not as a “sweetener.” With this recent approval, we’re sure to see Stevia show up in cookies, candy, and beverages!
It is recommended that Stevia be used in very small amounts. It can be “too sweet” (hard to imagine, isn’t it?) and have a slight aftertaste if too much is used. The extract is actually 300 times sweeter than table sugar.
High temperatures do not affect Stevia, however, it does not have the baking qualities. For example, Stevia does not add texture, soften batter, caramelize, enhance browning, or help with the fermentation of yeast.
One of the most popular qualities of Stevia is that it has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels!
The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill are currently working together to develop a Stevia-derived sweetener called Rebiana. Depending upon the success of Truvia, other products using Stevia will most likely become available to consumers.
“SO LONG AS THERE IS A BREATH IN ME, THAT LONG I WILL PERSIST. IF I PERSIST LONG ENOUGH, I WILL WIN!”