Why does 100% juice have so much sugar?

As a registered dietitian, I encourage my clients to check out the nutrition label on the food that they are consuming. Your question makes me think that you have been investigating a few nutrition labels yourself, so…well done! The nutrition label does a good job at breaking down the product to let the consumer know how many calories, grams of fat, grams of sugar, etc. that the product contains. Unfortunately, the current nutrition label does not clearly tell the whole story when it comes to sugar.

Let’s take the nutrition label on Old Orchard’s 100% Apple Juice. I looked at it and saw that there are 27 grams of sugar in each 8 ounce serving. The 27 grams may look like a lot! However, there is a difference between sugar that occurs naturally and that is added to sweetened products. Sugar is found naturally in some foods and drinks, like milk and fruit/100% fruit juice. For example, take a step back and look at Old Orchard 100% fruit juice’s whole nutrition picture. It does contain 27 grams of sugar, but the sugar is naturally occurring fruit sugar. The 100% juice is a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals that your body needs, and it is a fantastic way to keep your body hydrated. In addition, ½ cup of the juice counts as one serving of fruit, which can help you to meet your fruit and vegetable goals for the day.

Dietitians recommend that consumers limit consumption of added sugar. Overall, Americans get too many calories from foods containing added sugar. If consistently consumed over time, too much added sugar can increase risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Foods with added sugar often lack nutrients that we need for good health. Some products containing added sugar are obvious: regular soda, candy bars, cake, brownies, ice cream etc. But many foods that you may not expect may contain added sugar (crackers, pasta sauce, pizza, peanut butter, bread).
How do you know whether sugar is added or natural? The current nutrition label makes it hard to know the difference, as it only lists grams of sugar. But, in July of 2018, the nutrition label will change and list how many grams of added sugar that the product contains. According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their intake of added sugar to 36 grams/day (9 teaspoons/150 calories) and women should consume no more than 25 grams/day (6 teaspoons/100 calories).

If you are hoping to reduce intake of added sugar, continue to check out the nutrition label. Until the label changes next year, you can glance at the product’s ingredient list to see if sugar has been added. It may be listed as: high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, dextrose, honey, maple syrup, molasses etc. Next, begin to re-train your taste buds. If you are craving something sweet, aim to choose fruit first. Try to focus on the overall flavor and juiciness of the fruit. Consistently doing this over time may lead to you to find that foods with added sugar taste “too sweet.” In place of ice cream, whip up a homemade fruit smoothie or top unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit and cinnamon.

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