10 Places Sugar Is Lurking in Your Pantry

Want to cut the added sugar you consume? Check the labels of your favorite foods, because sugar goes by many names. Here are the top 10.

Cropped image of woman comparing products in shopPhoto: Shutterstock / tmcphotos
Photo: Shutterstock / tmcphotos

We’ve all heard the spiel that sugar is in almost everything. From junk food to foods that are advertised as healthy (we’re looking at you, yogurt), it seems we just can’t get away from the sweet stuff!

If you’re trying to cut added sugar from your diet, you’ve gotta know how to read a food label. Beware of these 10 terms.

1. Sucrose

This is a fancier way of saying “table sugar,” and it’s the most common type. It occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables, but you can also find it in all those sugary foods: candy, cookies, ice cream, cereal, ketchup, toaster pastries and so on.

2. Fructose

Fructose is another sugar found in fruits. You may be thinking, Isn’t fruit good for you? Of course it is…when it’s accompanied by fiber (in an apple, for example). The problem is when fructose is stripped from fiber and added to packaged foods such as sweetened yogurt.

3. High Fructose Corn Syrup

HFCS, a popular sweetener in the U.S., is derived from cornstarch, But don’t let the “corn” fool you into thinking it’s as healthy as what’s on the cob! Here, it’s processed into liquid form and added to a multitude of processed foods.

4. Turbinado Sugar

This “sugar in the raw” is light brown in color and tends to be thought of as a healthier form of sugar because you find it on the labels of many organic and so-called whole foods. But sugar is sugar! Even though it sounds exotic, this sugar gets its name from being produced in a turbine.

5. Barley Malt Syrup

Made from sprouted barley, this is a thick, sticky liquid. Like turbinado sugar, it tends to be used more in “healthy” products because it is digested more slowly than table sugar. However, the glycemic index of barley malt syrup is very similar.

6. Dextrose

Dextrose is a type of sugar made from starches, making it abundant and cheap for processed- food manufacturers. It’s considered “natural” because it comes from a natural source, but dextrose is just as unhealthy as any other sugar!

7. Evaporated Cane Juice

This substance is made from cane juice that’s been filtered, evaporated into syrup, crystallized and cured. Evaporated cane juice has almost the exact nutritional value of white sugar (which is also made from sugar cane), but it’s been dubbed a healthier alternative because it’s mostly organic. Guess what? “Organic” doesn’t always equal healthier!

8. Agave Nectar

Touted as a healthier sweetener and an alternative to sugar, agave nectar comes from the agave plant. It doesn’t spike blood sugar as much as regular sugar, but has been found to contain 70 to 90 percent fructose, which is actually worse than white sugar for metabolic health. Don’t be fooled by the health claims!

9. Maltodextrin

Because it doesn’t contain the familiar -ose ending like many processed sweeteners, maltodextrin is often overlooked as a type of sugar. It’s typically made from cornstarch, but can also be created from potatoes and rice. In addition to being a sweetener, it’s used as a thickening agent in salad dressing and other foods.

10. Fruit Juice Concentrate

Because it’s derived from (you guessed it) fruit juice, this ingredient may cause a sigh of relief. But be aware that it is still added sugar. Eating the whole fruit is way better for you!

Now that you know where to find added sugar, you can do something about it. Check the ingredient list before buying any processed or packaged food—or, better yet, make your own. Feel empowered to make a difference in the way you eat.

Bethany DiCarlo co-created the food blog Athletic Avocado with her twin sister, Rachel. A graduate student at Drexel University, she is studying to become a registered dietitian.

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