The Sweet Stuff: Part 3

The first two segments of this series covered some sugar basics and information about the glycemic index. This third and last segment will explain how the Guiding Stars system accounts for the sugar content of foods.

To learn more about added sugars, watch the video of our webinar.

How do sugars fit into 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. Food products are assigned scores for a variety of criteria, and the information used to arrive at the scores is found on each product’s nutrition facts label and ingredient list. An algorithm is used to determine each product’s score. 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.  

How does Guiding Stars differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars?

The nutrition facts label currently lists total sugars, and does not list added sugars separately (nor is there a biochemical method to distinguish them from intrinsic sugars). Therefore, the Guiding Stars algorithm only evaluates products for sugar if it’s evident that sugars have been added. How is this determined? By scanning each product’s ingredient list for key words that signal added sugars.

How many debits do products receive if they contain added sugars?

It depends on the amount of total sugar present in the food. The presence of one or more added sugars key words triggers an evaluation of the amount of total sugars in the food. From that value (present on the nutrition facts label as “sugars”),the percent of calories contributed by total sugars is calculated. The higher the percentage of calories from sugar, the more debits that food receives (baby and toddler foods are debited more severely). Any food that derives more than 40% of its calories from sugar automatically gets no stars.

Some words that indicate added sugars:

  • Agave
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sweetener
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated beet juice
  • Fructose
  • Glycerin
  • Molasses
  • Sucanat
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (including brown, cane, confectioner’s, granulate, invert, malt, maple, raw and others)
  • Syrup (includes brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, sorghum syrup and others)

Interested in learning more about added sugars? It’s not too late to watch the video of our webinar: “The Added Sugars Debate.”