How Much Sugar is Hiding in Your Food?

There are two kinds of sugar in your diet – the natural sugars and the added sugars.
Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table. The added sugars have many names and can be found in many places.

Foods Containing Added Sugars
The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruit drinks dairy products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt ) and some grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles). For example - one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories.

How much sugar is in that?
To figure out if a packaged food contains added sugars, and how much, you have to be a bit of a detective. On the Nutrition Facts panel, the line for sugars contains both the natural and added types as total grams of sugar. There are four calories in each gram, so if a product has 15 grams of sugar per serving, that’s 60 calories just from the sugar alone, not counting the other ingredients.

The hidden ingredient with many different names
One of the easiest ways to recognize sugar on a food label is by recognizing the -ose suffix. When you find words that end in -ose, there's a good chance it is sugar. Sugars ending in -ose are:

  • Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose.

More Names for Sugar
Just because it doesn't end in -ose, however, doesn't mean it isn't sugar. There are plenty of other names as well that may or may not sound like sugar. Other names for sugar include:

  • high fructose corn syrup,
  • molasses,
  • cane sugar, raw sugar, beet sugar
  • corn sweetener, corn syrup
  • raw sugar,
  • syrup, maple syrup
  • honey
  • carmel
  • fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate
  • Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran
  • Barley malt
  • Turbinado
  • Diatase ,Diatastic malt

Finding sugar on food labels can be tricky, but not impossible. When you are armed with the right information and a willingness to read food labels, you will be more likely to spot sugar in its many forms.

Tips for Reducing Sugar in Your Diet:

  • Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there, or consider using an artificial sweetener.
  • Buy sugar-free or low-calorie beverages. 
  • Buy fresh fruits or fruits canned in water or natural juice.
  • Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add fresh fruit
  • When baking, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
  • Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes (use equal amounts).
  • Try non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin in moderation. Non-nutritive sweeteners may be a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding more calories to your diet. The FDA has determined that non-nutritive sweeteners are safe.

These tips brought to you by the AICPA Medicare Supplement Insurance Program. The AICPA Medicare Supplement Insurance Program offers affordable group rates and personal and responsive service to AICPA members and their spouses. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-247-1771.

American Heart Association (AHA) and “Choose Sensibly” -, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

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