Where is the Sugar Hiding?

Watch for These Sneaky Sources of Sugar

Sugar is everywhere in your supermarket! It's in plain sight in many foods, such as cereals, cakes, cookies and candy. But it's also lurking under many different names in products that you might never suspect. Foods that don't even seem sweet, such as canned soup and spaghetti sauce can also be heavy on the sugar.

Even though sugar and other simple carbohydrates can play a part in a well-balanced diabetes diet, hidden sources of sugar can wreak havoc with the best laid nutritional plans. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons a day for women; 9 for men. To put that in terms of grams, remember this: one teaspoon of table sugar has 4 grams of sugar. So you can see how that easily adds up.

The nutrition facts panel on food items does not distinguish between added and natural sugars. (Natural sugars are the kind that occur, yes, naturally in food, such as the lactose in dairy products or the fructose in fruit.) So in order to find out whether a food has had sugar added to it, you need to look a little further down the label at the ingredient list. 

When you're looking through the list, make sure you keep going, even if you've found one type of sugar. Many products have three or more types of sugar in them!

Common Names of Sugar

Sugar travels incognito under many different aliases. Here are some of the more common names:

  • table sugar
  • brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • agave
  • molasses
  • cane sugar
  • corn syrup
  • sorghum
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • concentrated fruit juice
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • beet sugar
  • evaporated cane juice

Less Common Names of Sugar

But then it can get a little bit tricky. There are other sugars that might not be words you recognize. These often end in "-ose" just like sucrose (table sugar) does. Other "-ose" kinds of sugar are:

  • glucose (aka dextrose)
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • fructose

What to Know About Sugar Alcohols

Even more sneaky are the "-ols" which are basically sugar alcohols. This means, while they don't have the same calories or carbohydrates of regular sugar, they may still affect your health. Some people have a hard time digesting sugar alcohols and may experience GI distress, such as bloating and diarrhea. Many sugar-free chewing gums and breath mints and other "sugar-free" products have sugar alcohols in them. Some people opt for sugar-free foods to cut back on added sugars. But beware: if it's carbohydrates you need to count (which is the case in a diabetic diet), know that even sugar-free foods can have similar amounts of carbohydrate to their regular alternatives. Words to look for:

  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • mannitol
  • maltitol
  • lactitol
  • isomalt
  • glycerol
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