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Sugar is included in total carbs and listed separately on the label.
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Because the nutrition facts label lists the amount of carbohydrates and sugar separately, it's hard to know whether you need to add the two together for total carbs or what the value for sugar represents. To help keep it straight, remember that the amount on the label for total carbs already includes sugar. The information for sugar highlights the amount you'll consume, yet it doesn't indicate whether it's natural or added sugar.
The value for total carbohydrates on a food label includes the amount of all types of carbs -- sugar, starch and fiber -- in one serving. This is the value to use when you're counting carbohydrates, according to the American Diabetes Association. You may need to adjust the amount if your portion is different from the serving size defined at the top of the label. You'll find the amount of fiber listed separately, so that's easy to track. But if you want to know the amount of starches, or complex carbs, you're consuming, you'll have to subtract the amount of sugar and fiber from the total carbs.
Natural and Added Sugar
Even though sugar is included in total carbs, the amount you'll get in one serving is also listed separately so that you can track sugar intake. The label does not state whether the sugar was added during processing or it comes from sugars naturally found in whole foods. Natural sugars are healthy because they're from nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber in these foods also prevents spikes in blood sugar. Your body uses natural and added sugar for energy. Beyond that role, added sugar provides nothing more than empty calories. If any type of sugar is listed in the ingredients, it represents added sugar.
Sugar Alcohols for Sweetening
The label may include a value for sugar alcohols but, like other types of sugar, they're also included in the total carbs. Showing them is voluntary unless the label carries a health claim such as вЂњsugar-free.вЂќ Then, if sugar alcohols are present, they must be listed separately. Sugar alcohols are sweeteners produced from plants. They have 1.5 to 3 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram in sugar, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital. More importantly, they don't spike blood sugar. On the downside, they sometimes cause bloating and diarrhea. You'll find them in the ingredients, so look for mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.
Men and women should consume 130 grams of total carbohydrates daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. You can also calculate your intake based on consuming 45 percent to 65 percent of your total daily calories from carbs. Scientific evidence increasingly associates excessive consumption of added sugar with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides and weight gain, according to a review published in the August 2009 issue of вЂњCirculation.вЂќ Based on these concerns, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily, while men should get fewer than 9 teaspoons.