The Hidden Sugar in Food Part 2: The Many Names for Sugar

The Hidden Sugar in Food Part 2: The Many Names for Sugar

Okay, so we’ve made the decision to reduce or eliminate sugar from our kids’ diets.  But the only way to do that is to start reading labels and looking for that telltale “sugar” on the list.  However, reading an ingredients list isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Firstly, ingredients are listed in order of weight, from the heaviest ingredients to the lightest.  If sugar is the second ingredient, then it weighs less than the first ingredient but more than the third.  If sugar is high up in the ingredients list, you can rest assured there’s a lot of sugar in that product.

Unfortunately, companies have wised up to this.  They know that many more consumers today do check labels and look at the ingredients list.  They realize that listing sugar as the second, third, or fourth ingredient is a giant red flag for health-conscious consumers.  Rather than lose health-conscious customers because their food is sugary, or changing their formulations to make them healthier, companies simply disguise the sugar in their foods.  There are lots of different things companies can call sugar – here are some of the more common ones:

anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, liquid fructose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, sugar syrup, syrup

Some of the less common names for sugar include:

carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, diglycerides, disaccharides, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol, zylose

And these lists are by no means exhaustive! There are over 100 different names companies use for added sweeteners.

The best thing we as consumers can do for both ourselves and our society is to lobby the government to mandate “added sugars” labeling on all foods.  Right now, foods are labeled with “sugars” but there is no distinction made between those that are added and those that are naturally occurring.  If the government labeling requirements included a separate “added sugars” category we would be able to instantly tell if the company was adding sweeteners to our foods! Until then, we have to continue to read labels and keep an eye out for all those naughty sweet ingredients.

Bear in mind that just because “sugar” does not appear as a top ingredient in the food, it does not mean there is not a lot of sweetener added.  A manufacturer can decrease the ranking of sweeteners on their ingredients list by breaking the sugars down into several different types.  Whereas previously “sugar” may have been the second ingredient, now “fructose,” “malt syrup,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” and “glucose” may be listed as ingredients 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Wheat ThinsTake Nabisco Wheat Thins for example:

Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Soybean Oil, Sugar, Cornstarch, Malt Syrup (From Barley And Corn), Salt, Invert Sugar, Monoglycerides, Leavening (Calcium Phosphate And/Or Baking Soda), Vegetable Color (Annatto Extract, Turmeric Oleoresin).

See what they’ve done there?  Wheat thins are, ostensibly, a “healthy” snack.  Most people polled would probably say it is.  And most people would not guess how much sugar there really is in it!

The more types of sugar you see listed in the ingredients, the more added sugar there is, even if they are listed low in the ingredients.  When a company does this, it is likely trying to hide just how much added sugar there really is in the product!

Don’t be fooled by all the different names for sugar.  There is a lot of sugar lurking in a lot of products – now that you know, you’ll be able to make better decisions!

One thought on “The Hidden Sugar in Food Part 2: The Many Names for Sugar

  1. Pingback: Nutrition Facts Labels Should Include a Line for Added Sugar | Inspire Healthy Kids

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