The long-awaited nutrition label change the Food and Drug Administration has been pushing for finally goes into effect at the start of the new year. One of the most notable updates is that for the first time all food and drink brands will be required to call out the added sugar in their products in addition to the total content.
Sounds helpful, right? While being armed with as much knowledge as possible about what you’re putting in your body is a benefit, registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, feels strongly that it’s still way more important to pay attention to the total sugar than the added sugar. “Whether it’s eating healthier, reducing inflammation, alleviating digestive issues, clearing up your skin, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing inflammation, or lowering your risk of chronic illnesses, keeping an eye on total grams is what is going to get you to your goals,” she says.
“No added sugar” is a confusing marketing term more than anything else, says Zeitlin. “Foods made from fruits, whole grains, and dairy can say they have no added sugar because they don’t. For example, a large bottle of orange juice—made from whole fruit—will still contain more sugar than you should consume in a day,” she says. “But because they write no added sugar on it, people are unknowingly sabotaging their goals but drinking the entire bottle.Your body can’t differentiate between sources of sugar. That’s why the total content matters so much. You should limit your intake to 24 grams a day (for women) and 36 grams a day (for men), according to the American Heart Association.
Even with the new label laws going into effect next month, some brands will still try to deceive consumers into thinking their products are healthier than they really are. “Keep in mind that sugar by other names—maple syrup, agave, honey, and fruit purees—is still sugar,” says Zeitlin.
The healthiest sugar, according to a registered dietitian: