Sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, confectioners sugar, fructose, brown sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, molasses, maltose, sucrose, and syrup….the list goes on and on! Sugar has so many names, which causes so much confusion. How are we supposed to make healthy choices when sugar has multiple aliases out to lead us astray and food manufacturers are adding them to our foods?
Just to make it easier, let’s start with the basics. The main sugars in foods are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). If only it were that easy. The natural sugars found in food, including fructose in fruit and lactose in dairy are unavoidable, but it’s when we start adding sugar to food that we start rolling the dice with our health.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we limit added sugars. In order to know if the sugar on the nutrition label is natural or added, you need to investigate further. Check the ingredient list carefully as we know sugar has many names. Here is a list from the American Dietetic Association of all the red flags of sugar.
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
When reading the ingredient list, remember the ingredients listed first are present in the greatest amount and the ingredients listed last are in smaller amounts. You may also look for words like “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” on the label for better choices. The good news is that we don’t have to worry about most of the natural foods that should represent the majority of our diets, including vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains. The more processed the food, the greater the risk of sugar or (its aliases) being present so beware!
By Emily Barr, MS, RD, CNSC
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