In 2018, the nutrition labels you’ve grown accustomed to seeing (or ignoring) on your food and drink packages will change. The new FDA supplement facts guidelines are geared toward transparency; when the law goes into effect, companies will be required to include “added sugars” and “total sugars” on all nutrition labels. Former first lady Michelle Obama hopes this conscious shift in recognizing sugar content will encourage individuals to make healthier decisions and lower health risks associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular decease.
Before adding an item to your grocery cart or putting an ingredient into your next dinner, it’s important to understand the overall effects the foods you consume have on your health. Reading nutrition labels allows you to track the calories and nutrients you consume, informing your complete diet. But the information on each label can be confusing if you don’t have a baseline for comparison.
When these updated food labels are printed next year, the recommended limit for added sugars will be 50 grams, which is around 12 teaspoons per day. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sugar should make up no more than 10 percent of a person’s daily calories. That may sound like a generous amount, but some people will find it restricting: A single 12 ounce can of soda contains that much sugar.
Hopefully this new requirement will spark change throughout the food industry. When consumers know more about sugars added by manufacturers, they will likely opt for healthier alternatives and force companies to limit the additives in foods.
Know Your Sugars
Nutrition labels can be intimidating, but not if you know the percentages of different nutrients you should be consuming in a normal 1,500 calorie diet. There is a wide range of sugars you should consider avoiding to maintain a healthy diet. Educate yourself on the options before your next weekly grocery visit.
- Choose nutrient-rich organic cane sugar. This environmentally-friendly sugar doesn’t use damaging pesticides, but retains the benefits of unrefined sugar with numerous amino acids, trace amounts of minerals, and antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and phenols.
- Avoid empty calories from white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. White sugar is the result of a multistep refining process that involves stripping the sugar cane plant of its husk and, as a result, stripping most of its nutrients, too. This sugar has no substantial health benefits. In fact, it has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Although the jury is still out as to whether it can be conclusively linked to hypertension and various other health ailments, be wary of high-fructose corn syrup as well, as it is another sugar full of empty calories.
There’s no avoiding excess sugar. It’s become a regular part of the typical American diet. But reading updated nutrition labels and understanding the effects your dietary choices have on you and your family is the first step to gaining control and demanding more from companies.