We all know that too much sugar is bad for our health, however, we may not realize how often sugar shows up in our home.  It’s the added sugar that’s problematic. Not the natural sugars such as lactose in milk and fructose in fruit which are packed with nutrients and fiber, that help slow absorption. It’s the added sugar -such as corn syrup, corn sweetener, invert sugar.

Spotting added sugar in food should be easy, right? Just read the label. It can be a little tricky. Food manufacturers call sugar by more than 60 different names.

If you’re going to protect your family from the health risks (cardiovascular disease, fatty liver,  leaky gut, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers) of too much added sugar, you’ll need to outsmart food manufacturers.

Where it’s hiding?

Added sugar is obviously in candy, cake, and soda. But it’s also in foods that aren’t considered sweets, including crackers, yogurt, bread, and breakfast cereals.

You can find added sugar by looking at the ingredients in a product.. Red alert words. Look for words ending in “ose,” such as fructose, dextrose, and maltose, and look for juices. Words like “syrup” and “sugar” are highly likely to mean added sugar. Anything described as “crystals” or “concentrate” is suspect as well.

You won’t find added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label since the listing for sugar includes both natural and added sugars. Proposed new labels aim to change this. In the meantime, you can see how many grams of sugar are in a product.

Check total sugars per serving

nutrition label.jpg

Check the Ingredient List

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All of these are aliases for added sugar. The higher up on the list they appear, the more sugar is in the product.

The many names of added sugars

Keep an eye out for these added sugars when you read ingredient lists:

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barbados Sugar
  • Barley Malt
  • Beet Sugar
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Buttered Sugar
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Cane Juice Crystals
  • Cane Juice
  • Cane Sugar
  • Caramel
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Syrup Solids
  • Date Sugar
  • Dextran
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl Maltol
  • Fructose
  • Invert Sugar
  • Icing Sugar
  • Malt Syrup
  • Panela

What you should do?

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says we should limit intake of added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women limit added sugar intake to 24 grams (the equivalent of 6 teaspoons) per day, and total sugar (natural and added) to about 48 grams per day. It recommends that men limit added sugars to 36 grams (the equivalent of 9 teaspoons) per day, and total sugar to about 72 grams per day.

Look for places in your diet where you can cut back on added sugar. Are you eating a lot of cereals with added sugar? Maybe you like juices. Your morning Joe—what goes in there? Start eliminating those types of foods and increase your intake of fiber.

If you do use sugar, use less processed forms. Try to sweeten foods yourself. You’ll probably add less sugar than a manufacturer would. Alternatively, I recommend using stevia for sweetening purposes.

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN