We’ve covered the topic of sugar (especially added sugar) quite frequently here on the Guiding Stars blog in the last couple of years because people want to know more about sugar, and because there have been several studies and recommendations about sugar that we have wanted to discuss and share with you. We even did a webinar on sugar (you can check that out here).
Differentiating Between Natural and Added Sugars
The Food and Drug Administration proposed a revision to the Nutrition Facts label that appears on food packages, and one of the changes they put forth was to call out added sugars separately from the sugar that might be naturally present in foods. (Guiding Stars’ letter of support for the proposed changes appears here). This would allow consumers to easily see how much sugar has been added during processing and manufacturing, and allow them to make comparisons between products. The changes to the Nutrition Facts label were finalized last May, and food manufacturers will be required to use the new label format by the end of July, 2018.
How Sugar Rates with Guiding Stars
The Guiding Stars rating system rates foods based on their nutrition information and assigns each food a rating of up to three stars based on scores from an algorithm. The algorithm credits foods nutrients to encourage (vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, whole grains and omega-3 fats), and debits for nutrients that health authorities discourage, including added sugars, added sodium, trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Currently, food labels don’t have added sugars listed, so the Guiding Stars algorithm only evaluates products for sugar if there are certain “key words” on the ingredient list. Products with more added sugars get more debits, which leads to fewer stars. And any food that gets 40% or more of its calories from sugar ingredients automatically will get zero stars.
There are many words that signal the presence of added sugars. In fact, there are currently 46 caloric sweetener ingredients in the Guiding Stars database; some of them include: agave, cane sugar/cane juice, beet sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, maltose, and sucrose. One thing that people forget is that even sweeteners that seem “natural,” such as agave and honey, are sources of added sugars. When sugars of any type are added to foods, the manufacturers must include that sugar source on the ingredient list. Read labels, compare products using Guiding Stars and, when the new Nutrition Facts label is prevalent, utilize it to make your shopping decisions easier and more healthful.