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No Sugar Added Vs. Sugar-Free

By Kristeen Cherney

In the world of product packaging, finding foods without sugar isn’t so clear-cut. While cutting down on sugar is an important dietary step to take, product terminology can create some confusion at the grocery store. Companies can claim that a food has “no sugar added” when no type of sugar or sugar-containing ingredient is added during processing or packaging. Sugar-free foods, on the other hand, may still contain trace amounts of sugar, but there is a legal limit per serving.

Drawbacks of No Sugar Added

Consuming foods with no added sugar may be an effective way to cut down on your overall sugar intake. To compensate for a lack of sweetness, however, some food manufacturers may add more fat or protein, which increases calories. Sugar alcohols may also be used in these foods. Be aware that sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

What Sugar-Free Means

For a company to claim that a food product is “sugar-free,” the food must contain 0.5 gram of sugar or less, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules. This amount is applied to each serving and doesn’t apply to the whole package of food. If you do choose sugar-free foods, it’s important to watch your serving sizes so the sugar grams don't add up. Also, keep in mind that sugar-free foods can contain sugar alcohols.

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