Are there really "hidden sugars" in our food?

Published online: Jan 23, 2015
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There has been a lot of recent chatter regarding the concept of "hidden sugars," with some implying that "sugars" are added to foods for some nefarious reason, and others making claims that consumers might be eating products that contain more "sugars" than they are led to believe.

The fact is, sugar has been added to foods for centuries, not only to enhance taste but because it contributes essential functional properties to food formulation, including safety as a natural preservative.

The crust of your bread would not be golden brown if the little bit of sugar added did not react with the protein in flour, a chemical reaction known as the Milliard reaction. Sugar also increases the palatability of many healthful foods so people will eat them, which many scientific studies confirm increases intakes of key vitamins and minerals.

Sugars are also not hidden in foods and beverages because the amount and type of sweetening ingredient has been provided to consumers on food labels for more than two decades. To find out how much sugar is in a product, just turn to the nutrition facts panel (NFP). Total "sugars" are prominently displayed on the NFP. This includes sugars that occur naturally in the food, including sucrose, and both all-natural sugar and the growing number of other man-made, caloric sweeteners used in today's food and beverage products.

When and if "sugars" are added, the types of "added sugars" must be declared on the product's ingredients statement. The ingredients statement will list all-natural sugar as sugar or sucrose, and other caloric sweeteners by name in order of the amount in the product relative to all other ingredients. The amount that is added is incorporated into the "sugars" total in grams ... and 4 grams equals a teaspoon. Now you know how much sugar or added sugars is in the foods and beverages you purchase.