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How to Reduce Added Sugar Intake

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 7:00am

Announcer: Farm & Family is a production of Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers:Today, we are going to talk about how to reduce added sugar intake. Hello, I’m Amy Myers and welcome to Farm & Family. Today, we’re speaking with Yulu Wang, the dietetic intern at Mississippi State University. 

Amy Myers: The first thing I want to know is what added sugar is?

Yulu Wang: Added sugars are sugar and syrups added to food and beverages when they are processed or prepared. Contrary to the added sugar, the natural sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk. 

Amy Myers: Why should we reduce the intake of added sugar? 

Yulu Wang: Comparing with natural sugar, added sugars have no nutritional value but high calories. Our bodies don't need too much sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but high calories and finally lead to extra pounds or even obesity and reducing heart health.

Amy Myers: Do you have any tips to reduce added sugar intake during daily life?

Yulu Wang: Yes. The first and most important point is to limit the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. The major food and beverage sources of added sugars for Americans are regular soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks. There are 39 grams of added sugar in a 12 oz soda can. So-called "healthy" drinks, such as smoothies and fruit juices, can still contain a large amount of added sugar. For example, 15 oz of 100% apple juice contains more than 49 grams of added sugar. Drinks don't make you feel as full, so people who consume lots of calories from drinks do not eat less to compensate. Therefore, it is better to choose a lower-sugar drink like water, milk, unsweetened tea, coffee, and sparkling water. 

Amy Myers: Yes, the first tip is to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Any other tips?

Yulu Wang: The second tip is to avoid fruits canned in syrups or have added sugar in the first ingredients list. It’s good to choose fresh fruit or choose fruits cans labeled with "in own juice" or "no added sugar”. If you buy canned fruits that do have added sugar, you can remove some of it by rinsing them in water before you eat them. 

Amy Myers: The second tip is to avoid fruits canned in syrups and choose fresh fruits. What else can we do besides these two tips?

Yulu Wang: The third tip is to stay away from sugary condiments with lots of sugar. Some common condiments like ketchup, BBQ sauce, sweet chili sauce, and salad dressings contain a large amount of added sugar. One small pouch of ketchup contains 4 grams of added sugar. So, it is better to use spices, herbs, and natural sweeteners to give food flavor and reduce the amount of added sugar intake. 

Amy Myers: Do you think it is better to use sugarless foods, like sugar free syrup, sugar free candy, sugar free water flavorings, sugar substitutes like Truvia, Stevia?

Yulu Wang: Yes. sugar-free foods are certainly a better choice if you're looking to cut down the sugar intake. But sugar-free does not mean carbohydrate-free or fat-free, so if you're watching carbs or calories, you still need to be mindful not to overdo it. For food with sugar substitutes, the taste might be different. If you don't like the taste, just skip it. Instead, it may make more sense to simply have a small serving of the real thing.

Amy Myers: Yulu, can you introduce how do we know how much-added sugar is in food? 

Yulu Wang: Good point. Eating less sugar isn't as easy as just avoiding sweet foods. Sometimes sugar can be hidden in less likely foods, including breakfast cereals, granola cereals, and dried fruits. It is important to check the added sugar on the nutrition fact label. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed its rules so that companies have to show the amount of added sugar in their products on the ingredients label in grams, along with a percentage of the daily value. Right now, it is easy to find the amount of added sugar in packaged food on the nutrition fact label. 

Amy Myers: What is the daily limit on added sugar intake?

Yulu Wang: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the limitation for men is no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar per day, and for women is no more than six teaspoons per day. For children 2 years of age and older, the aim is less than six teaspoons, and for children under 2 years of age, the aim is to avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar. 

Amy Myers: Where can we go for more information on this subject?

Yulu Wang: The websites sponsored by a governmental organization, medical institutions, and education initiations are credible sources on this subject. For example, heart.org, which is the website of the American Heart Association, can provide a daily recommendation of added sugar intake. Eatright.org and cdc.gov are also good to find nutrition-related guidelines. 

Amy Myers: Thanks so much, guys. Today, we’ve been speaking with Yulu Wang, the dietetic intern at Mississippi State University. I’m Amy Myers, and this has been Farm & Family. Have a great day!

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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