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Decoding Sugar: Various Names for Sugar on Food Labels

When browsing food labels, you may think avoiding sugar is as simple as steering clear of anything that lists "sugar" as an ingredient. However, sugar hides under many names, making it a bit of a detective game to identify. Understanding these various terms can help you make healthier eating choices. 

Here’s a guide to the many aliases sugar can use on food labels.

Common Names for Sugar:

  1. Sucrose: Often referred to as table sugar, sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose and is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets.
  2. Fructose: Found naturally in fruits, it's often added to processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
  3. Glucose: A simple sugar that is an important energy source in living organisms and is a component of many carbohydrates.
  4. Dextrose: Another form of glucose, dextrose is commonly used in baking products and can be found in some processed foods.

Syrups and Nectars:

  1. Corn Syrup: Derived from corn starch, and it’s more processed counterpart high-fructose corn syrup, it is common in sodas and desserts.
  2. Agave Nectar: Sweeter than honey, agave nectar is often marketed as a natural sweetener but is high in fructose.
  3. Maple Syrup: While natural, it is still a concentrated source of sugar and should be used sparingly.
  4. Rice Syrup: Made from fermented cooked rice, it’s a sweetener that breaks down into glucose rather than fructose.

Less Obvious Terms:

  1. Maltose: Known as malt sugar, maltose is found in beverages, cereals, and snacks.
  2. Lactose: The natural sugar found in milk.
  3. Cane Juice: Evaporated cane juice is essentially sugar, less refined but with similar effects on blood sugar levels.
  4. Molasses: A byproduct of sugar refining, it's rich in vitamins but still very sugary.

Fruit-Related Sugars:

  1. Fruit Juice Concentrate: Used as a sweetener, which concentrates the sugar found naturally in fruit.
  2. Date Sugar: Derived from dates, this sweetener is marketed as natural but is still high in calories and sugar.

Alcohols and Compounds:

  1. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Xylitol: These are sugar alcohols, which are less sweet than sugar and have fewer calories, but can still impact blood sugar levels.
  2. Ethyl Maltol: Often used to enhance flavor and sweetness in a variety of foods.

Sugar comes in many forms and names, many of which don’t even sound like sugar. 

Familiarizing yourself with these terms can help you better manage your sugar intake and make more informed decisions about the foods you eat. 

Always remember to read food labels carefully—the ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest, so where these sugars appear in the ingredient list can also inform your choices.

By educating ourselves about these different names and making mindful food selections, we can take significant strides towards better health and nutrition.

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