If you’re trying to limit the amount of sugar you eat, then you need to learn the other names for sugar on food labels. Sugar comes in so many forms and goes by so many names that looking for sugar on a label can feel like finding a needle in a haystack! Fortunately, with a little bit of knowledge you’ll quickly become an expert at recognizing hidden sugars on food labels and avoid having your health and weight loss efforts sabotaged.
Sugar Consumption Stats
- The average American consumes at least 64 pounds of sugar per year, and the average teenage boy at least 109 pounds.
- Per capita consumption of added sugars has risen by 28 percent since 1983.
- Americans consume 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day, teens 34 teaspoons.
While some types are better than others, it’s important to remember that some sugars can be downright dangerous.
We even did another article explaining why you should stay away from Splenda at all costs!
But sugar is everywhere. It is often a hidden ingredient in processed foods. Among other things, it enhances flavor, promotes browning and aids in preservation; however, the high sugar content in foods comes with a trade off. Excessive sugar intake can lead to type 2 diabetes, contribute to metabolic syndrome and lead to excessive weight gain. The empty calories in sugar don’t provide any nutritional benefit to the body, which is why it is important to know other names for sugar on food labels.
If you’re dedicated to maintaining a healthy relationship with sugar, though, it’ll take more than simply avoiding processed foods. Sugar masquerades under all kinds of exotic names – which have been fabricated to trick you into consuming it.
Some of them are even marketed as health foods, or at least as “healthy sweeteners.”Don’t be fooled, though. Here’s a list of names behind which sugar likes to hide. Consume these hidden sugars at your own risk
Sucrose: That’s half glucose (starch) and half fructose (sweetness). You might also know it by “cane sugar,” which is 100% sucrose.
- HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
What it’s in: fast foods, sodas, yogurts, canned foods, frozen pizzas, macaroni and cheese, cereal bars, breads
Why you should avoid it: Study after study has shown that high fructose corn syrup, made from processed (and usually genetically modified) cornstarch, is technically no different from sucrose. But some research shows that HFCS generates a higher blood fructose level, which could have negative metabolic consequences. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conscluded that Americans eat 132 calories per day in high-fructose corn syrup. Your body metabolizes fructose in a way that encourages body fat storage, that’s why it’s no surprise that high fructose corn syrup has been linked to obesity and diabetes. In 2010, corn refiners petitioned the FDA for permission to start calling HFCS “corn sugar.” They were turned down.
- Blackstrap molasses
What it’s in: baked beans, gingerbread
Why you should avoid it: While unsulfured blackstrap is high in antioxidants and nutrients such as iron, folate, and calcium, the sulfured kind is higher in empty calories and sulfur dioxide content. The problem: You won’t be able to tell which kind you’re getting by looking at the label.
What it’s in: ice cream, fruit juice, baked goods, used as fruit flavoring
Fructose consumption has been strongly tied to rising obesity rates in the past several decades, and research shows that fructose consumption now accounts for 10% of our daily caloric intake.
What it’s in: fruits, honey, fast foods, baked goods
Why you should avoid it: Glucose (also known as grape sugar; other forms include dextrose and glucose solids) has the ability to raise the acidity of your blood, and has been linked with high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity.
- Golden syrup
What it’s in: tarts, pancake toppings, desserts
Why you should avoid it: This British corn syrup alternative is no better than it’s counterpart. It’s composed almost entirely of sucrose, fructose, and glucose—three types of sugar.
What it’s in: beer, sodas, candies, processed foods
Why you should avoid it: Nutrients like protein have been processed out of this common food additive. It’s been found to be harmful to those with celiac disease and wheat and corn allergies since it’s derived from corn.
What it’s in: barley, milk, plants, your saliva
Why you should avoid it: The very first enzyme ever discovered, diastase helps your body process the sugar you eat by turning starch into maltose and then into glucose, other types of sugar that contribute to blood sugar spikes.
- Corn syrup
What it’s in: sodas, fast food, cookies
Why you should avoid it: The lesser of two evils is still something to fear. While not quite as bad as high fructose corn syrup, just one tablespoon of plain corn syrup contains 16 grams of carbohydrates.
- Corn sweetener
What it’s in: liquid sweeteners, frozen foods, cough syrups, antacids
Why you should avoid it: A large a majority of corn in the United States is genetically modified. You won’t find this distinction on your food labels though, and its health effects are largely untested.
- Carob syrup
What it’s in: cakes, cookies, and used as a substitute for chocolate
Why you should avoid it: When processed into carob syrup, the beneficial proteins and nutrients found in carob fruit is stripped away, and what you’re left with is mostly empty calories.
- Beet sugar
What it’s in: more than 20% of the world’s sugar
Why you should avoid it: A vast majority of beet sugar is genetically modified, something that usually goes unlabeled.
- Demerara sugar
What it’s in: muffins, cakes, and used as a sweetener in coffee and tea
Why you should avoid it: This large-grained, textured sugar with caramel overtones has more nutrients than table sugar—but that’s not saying much. Its trace amounts of proteins and vitamins are so insignificant they don’t even appear on USDA food labels.
- Malt syrup
What it’s in: bread, pastries, diabetic alternative foods
Why you should avoid it: Malt syrups are extremely high in carbohydrates and can therefore drastically raise blood sugar levels.
- Barley malt
What it’s in: malt beers like Samuel Adams, cereals, candy bars
Why you should avoid it: This grain-based sugar is half as sweet as white sugar, but it’s just as high on the glycemic index (a measure of how much a food spikes your blood sugar).
- Fruit juice concentrate
What it’s in: Juices, snack bars, applesauce, and other fruity edibles
Why you should avoid it: No matter how healthy your juice looks, chances are good that added fruit juice concentrate is in there. Check labels of juice, flavored yogurt and any other processed food for grape, apple or any other kind of fruit juice concentrate: It’s all too often there. Concentrate is formed when the water is removed from fruit juice. What’s left? We’ll give you one guess. Yup, sugar.
- Agave nectar
What it’s in: many health foods.
Why you should avoid it: Another “health” food favorite, agave nectar is touted as a natural sugar and is widely used in natural baked goods. But agave nectar is higher in fructose than cane sugar. In fact, says Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, agave is 85% fructose. “Agave’s probably one of the worst,” Dr. Weil says. Not only is it not healthier for you, but it also doesn’t even contain more antioxidants or minerals than other types. However, it does have a lower glycemic load than other sweeteners, so it causes a less drastic spike in blood sugar. And the stuff is so sweet that you’ll probably use less of it.
What it’s in: milk, cheese, dairy products
Why you should avoid it: Nearly three-fourths of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. If you experience bloating or cramps frequently, try cutting out dairy to see if lactose intolerance is the cause.
- Ethyl maltol
What it’s in: breads, cakes, confectionary goods
Why you should avoid it: This highly pure compound is often used as flavoring due to its extremely sweet scent, indicating its hazardous high-sugar content.
What it’s in: used as a food additive
Why you should avoid it: This complex sugar is produced in our body when we break down starch. As a food additive, however, it often contains trace amounts of allergens such as wheat and corn.
There are many other names but the above are most popular additives.
Some healthier alternatives are raw sugar, xylitol, stevia, and honey.
Take the time to read product labels, and use this knowledge to make wise and educated choices.