Added sugar is lurking in your everyday food and drink—and this app will help you find it.
Americans’ high consumption of added sugars—especially those found in soft drinks and processed foods—has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. And this sugar rush isn’t just in America. Across the pond, health officials from Public Health England have released a new app, Change4Life Sugar Smart, to help people better visualize how much of the sweet stuff they're ingesting. All you have to do is scan an item’s barcode, and the app reveals its sugar content in the form of sugar cubes (the equivalent of a teaspoon). Even if you’re a conscious consumer who always reads labels, seeing a visual amount of the sugar you’re putting into your body can make a bigger impact than reading (and most likely dismissing) a seemingly arbitrary number. That fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt with six sugar cubes doesn’t seem so healthy now, does it?
Back here in the States, the government has pivoted its dietary adversaries from fat, carbs, and cholesterol to added sugars. For the first time ever, the USDA issued guidelines which recommend that Americans keep their consumption of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of overall calories. That’s equal to 45 grams (or 11.25 teaspoons) for women and 50 grams (or 12.5 teaspoons) for men. That number might sound like a lot right now, but it’s pretty easy to reach those daily limits in just one restaurant meal, which is why Americans consume an average of almost triple the recommendation.
While this app makes a great sugar-kicking sidekick, the day hasn’t been saved just yet. Unfortunately, the app has no way of distinguishing between added sugars and those that are naturally-occuring because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently lumps the two into the one nutritional line for sugar. (The FDA is, however, pushing for added sugars to be listed separately on food labels.) Sugars that occur naturally in foods like fruit and milk aren’t the kinds of sugar you need to be concerned with because they’re paired with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Additionally, due to a legislative loophole, "sugar-free" can be stamped on foods that contain less than 0.5 grams sugar per serving, so the sugar content of these products won’t register on the app either. While 0.5 grams isn't much, it can add up. Always make sure to scope out a product’s ingredient list for sugar, as well as one of its 56 different names.
Along with seeing pyramids of sugar on your phone’s screen every time you reach for a snack, you can find more motivation on how to cut back on sugar with these 30 Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar. You’ll slash your empty calorie intake as well as your risk of tooth decay, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Sounds pretty sweet to us.