Getting Sugar Smart: Know Your Nemesis

Is sugar just as sweet despite a clever alias? Nutritional experts say absolutely, and point out that it’s important to know sugar’s different guises as we all need to be eating a whole lot less of it. These days it’s hard to find “sugar” listed on the sweet-tasting ingredient label. Instead, these secret sugar sources go under cover with different monikers. What’s more, there’s plenty of added sugar in foods that don’t even taste all that sweet.

At last count, the World Health Organization found 56 different types of sweeteners in American processed foods and drinks. Generally speaking, it’s best to get your sweet fix from a naturally occurring source, such as an apple. Some argue that certain “natural” added sugars are metabolized better by the body. However, many nutritional experts believe that sugar is sugar and we shouldn’t have more than six teaspoons of it daily.

Label Looking: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all packaged foods and drinks to list sugar content. However, manufacturers aren’t required to list how much of the total sugar is naturally-occurring – as with fruit juice. The majority of sugars in the typical American diet are those added to foods and drinks during processing.

Common Aliases: Ready for a long list of culprits? Some like brown sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, fruit juice concentrates, honey and maple syrup sound pretty straight-forward. Dig deeper and you’ll find: anhydrous dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and crystal dextrose. Other common sugary ingredients include fructose (sugar from fruit and vegetables), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (sugar from grain).

Less Common Names: Here are some other little known sweetening terms to keep on your radar: carbitol, diglycerides, disaccharides, erythritol, maltodetrin, mannitol, sucanet, xylitol and zylose.

In your label search, keep an eye out for the relative position of sugar – by any of its names – on an ingredients list. If sugar sources head the list, chances are that the product has high added sugar content.