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3 Must-Know Tricks for Spotting Added Sugar

Sugar, sugar, everywhere! That probably sums up our initial reaction when we try to eat less sugar and improve our diet. Avoiding added sugar is just tougher than one might imagine.

After all, sugar is an ingredient in many obvious foods, such as sports drinks and cookies, as well as not-so-obvious foods such as ketchup and pizza sauce. Adding sugar is a cheap strategy to boost taste appeal and the shelf life of processed goods. The downside is that our nutrition facts labels don’t list “added sugar” separately, at least not yet.

So, we’re left with a guessing game: How much added sugar is in a food versus natural sugar? We don’t want to demonize natural sugar, because it may be an indicator you’re eating good-for-you foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and dairy alternatives. Right now, here’s the best thing we can do as consumers: If it has an ingredient list, read it, then watch out for any of the 56 added sugar nicknames listed below.

The 56 Nicknames for Added Sugar

Agave nectar
Barbados sugar
Barley malt*
Beet Sugar
Blackstrap molasses
Brown Rice Sugar
Brown Sugar
Buttered Syrup
Cane Juice Crystals
Cane Sugar
Caramel*
Carob Syrup
Castor Sugar
Confectioner’s Sugar
Corn Syrup
Corn Syrup Solids
Crystalline Fructose
Date Sugar
Demerara Sugar
Dextran*
Dextrose
Diastatic malt*
Diatase*
Ethyl maltol*
Evaporated Cane Juice
Florida Crystals
Fructose
Fruit Juice
Fruit Juice Concentrates
Galactose
Glucose
Glucose Solids
Golden Sugar
Golden Syrup
Grape Sugar
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Honey
Icing Sugar
Invert Sugar
Lactose
Malt Syrup
Maltose
Maple Syrup
Molasses
Muscovado Sugar
Organic Raw Sugar
Panocha*
Raw Sugar
Refiner’s Syrup
Rice Syrup
Sorghum Syrup
Sucrose
Sugar
Treacle*
Turbinado Sugar
 Yellow Sugar

*Ingredient not covered by the 3 tips below.

Source: List courtesy of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition.

3 Simple Tricks to Spot Added Sugar

Okay, so we don’t expect you to burn that whole list above into memory! Here’s a three-step shortcut that’ll help you choose foods without a lot of added sugar. 

  1. Memorize 6 keywords: sugar, syrup, nectar, juice, honey and molasses. This is achievable and will ensure that you catch most added sugar ingredients in any given food product.
  1. It contains -ose in the name. Just because you can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t figure out what it means. Added sugar goes by many scientific nicknames and most of them end in -ose. Case and point: Table sugar is sucrose. Fruit-derived sugar is fructose.
  1. Notice the order of ingredients. Reject an item if the first few ingredients contain added sugar as identified by steps 1 and 2. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Ideally, you want foods where added sugar is listed as far down in the ingredient list as possible.
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