How Do Nutrition Labels Disguise Added Sugar?

Added sugar is hard to avoid (trust us, we’ve tried). It’s hiding in all our favorite foods, many of which aren’t inherently sweet (why hello, bread, salad dressing, and tomato sauce), and it’s also often sneakily disguised under names that either sound like a science experiment, or like the latest health food fad. Those many, many names make added sugar extra difficult to spot and cut out. But because eating too much added sugar is linked to numerous adverse health conditions—including diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol—eliminating it from your diet is a worthwhile endeavor.

There is a small but important difference between foods that naturally contain sugar and foods that contain added sugar, and it’s the second ones we’re talking about. Many good-for-you foods contain naturally occurring sugars. Fruit is the obvious one—that’s why it’s sweet and delicious. The difference is that naturally occurring sugars, when eaten as part of a whole food (that is, not as, say, fruit juice), also come with fiber, which helps regulate how quickly your body digests sugar. There’s also a lot of water, which decreases the overall amount of sugar per serving, plus vitamins for good measure. And while, yes, it is technically possible to go overboard even on fruit, it’s always better to opt for the real thing over a food where the sugar is added in and therefore is more speedily absorbed into your bloodstream. Not only does a lot more of it end up stored as fat that way, but over time, too much sugar can damage arteries, overwhelm your ability to produce insulin, and contribute to obesity.

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