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Finding the Hidden Sugar in the Ingredients

posted Nov 21, 2017, 7:44 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT
Excess sugar consumption is linked to many chronic health conditions, ranging from diabetes to hormonal imbalances, and linked to the acceleration of brain cell destruction in Alzheimer's disease.  While sugar in our food is not the only culprit for developing diabetes, it does trigger the release of the hormone (insulin) that regulates blood glucose (sugar) levels.   Understanding how to find sugar on a food label is important for individuals who have intolerances or sensitivities to specific types of sugar.  For example, lactose is a naturally occurring milk sugar that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort to those who have lactose intolerance.  High fructose corn syrup, a liquid sweetener, is added to sodas and many processed foods, has been linked to the development of diabetes in those individuals who are at risk. 

To help you find the hidden sugar in your food, take a closer look at the fine print on the food label listed under “ingredients”.    The clues are in the suffix or ending part of a word.    The following are just a few key terms to help you identify the sugar in your food.   

1.       “Ose”:  Ose is a suffix indicating carbohydrate.  On a food label, under  “ingredients”, look for keywords that end in “ose”.   Commonly used added sugars that use the “ose” suffix are dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.  

2.       “Syrup”:  Syrup is a concentrated solution of sugar in water.  On a food label, look for words ending with syrup.  Commonly used syrups are agave syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup,  and high fructose corn syrup.   

3.       “Juices”:  A fluid which can be naturally occurring or mixed.   Look for ingredients that have added the word “juice”.  Commonly used juices, are apple juice, grape juice, and pineapple juice. 

4.       “Honey ”:  Flower nectar stored in the honeycomb by bees.   The flower nectar breaks down into simple sugars and is harvested to make honey.   Honey has the same reaction in the body as table sugar. 

With time and practice, you will be able to quickly find the “hidden sugars” in many foods.  It’s important to note that the ingredients are listed in the order of highest-quantity to lowest-quantity in a particular food.     

For more questions on this topic or to have our Registered Dietitians present more on this topic to your department, please contact .