Other Names for Sugar Hiding in Plain Sight
What Do Food Labels Tell Us?
Whenever you purchase food from the store that contains any packaging, it should come with a food label. The federal government requires food companies to include a condensed chart that tells you (the consumer) what you are eating. Every food label must list the calories per serving, fat, carbs, protein, sugar and certain vitamins. In addition to listing the primary macronutrients, food labels list every single ingredient that makes up the product. This is where you can look to see if you are eating added sugars.
In recent years, manufacturers were supposed to start listing added sugars separately from all sugars in new nutrition labels. Unfortunately, that requirement has been delayed. This makes it even more important to know how to spot different names for sugar on the labels.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is the simplest compound that the body needs to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides your body with energy. Most forms of sugar are considered "simple sugars" because they contain only one or two sugar molecules.
With that said, there are many different forms of sugar that you should be aware of if you want to successfully reduce your consumption. The sections below will help guide you in spotting all forms and names for sugar listed on your food labels.
Common Sugar Types
Whenever you refer to sugar, the most basic forms that you will come across include:
These six sugars are naturally occurring in the environment, but they are often processed by humans and machines as a way to sweeten and enhance the flavor of foods
Foods that contain sugar are likely to contain one or several of these forms. Table sugar can be dextrose or sucrose, fructose is the sugar generally found in fruits and vegetables, maltose can be found in some cereals, and lactose is commonly referred to as the dairy sugar. If your food labels mention any of these names for sugar, then they contain added sugar.
Natural sugars are those found in food that aren't added by humans. For example, fruit, vegetables and milk all contain natural sugars. Most health authorities suggest consuming your sugar from these sources because they contain other valuable nutrients. However, natural sugars are still sugar and have the same number of calories. Therefore, they don’t help when it comes to weight loss.
Processed and Refined Sugars
In comparison to natural sugars, processed and refined sugars are generally added to foods as a way to enhance flavor or increase shelf life. The process of extracting the sugar from a natural source tends to strip out all of the nutritive value. Processed and refined sugars are considered worse for your health than natural sugars, and they are usually the most commonly consumed types of sugar.
Processed and refined sugars tend to be found in sodas, candies, table sugar, sports drinks, breads, pastries, cereals, pastas, dairy, yogurts, juices and more. It's not uncommon to see other names for sugar, like high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, sorghum and others, as descriptors on food labels.
If you see the word “syrup” on an ingredient list, it’s usually some sort of added sugar. Some common examples are maple syrup, corn syrup and different types of nectars.
Honey and Molasses
Some people may be under the impression that honey and molasses are healthier than other kinds of sugar because they’re found in nature, but they’re no better for you. One tablespoon of honey has about 17 grams of sugar, while the same amount of molasses has 15 grams of sugar.
Be mindful that manufacturers may add honey or molasses to make the food seem healthier, but it’s not much healthier for you than if they had added a similar amount of white sugar or other sweeteners.
Other Names for Sugar
When reading food labels, it's important to be aware of the common names that essentially act as code words for sugar. Here are 42 different names for sugar that you may not be aware of:
- Barley malt
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown rice syrup
- Buttered sugar/buttercream
- Carob syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Corn syrup
- Confectioner’s sugar (A.K.A. powdered sugar)
- Evaporated cane juice
- Corn syrup solids
- Fruit juice
- Crystalline fructose
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Golden syrup
- Diastatic malt
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Ethyl maltol
- Florida crystals
- Malt syrup
- Glucose syrup solids
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Rice syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Sorghum syrup
- Agave Nectar/Syrup
- Demerara sugar