Since the 1980s, sugar intake in the United States has risen by roughly 28 percent, and the average American now consumes about 64 lbs. of sugar per year. While many people use very little of the granulated kind, they don't realize that sugar goes by many other names and appears in many different forms. People trying to limit their consumption of sugar can benefit from learning more about hidden names for sugar and carefully reading grocery labels.
The Problem with Labeling
The Food and Drug Administration has defined "added sugars" as those that don't occur naturally in foods, but consumers are given the task of deciphering hidden names for sugar. Even after they learn all the names, it is impossible for consumers to tell how much of the hidden sugar is in any given product because the FDA does not require an "Added Sugars" line on nutrition labels. Instead, ingredients are listed in descending order by weight and not by calories. Because certain products contain more than one hidden form of sugar, the amounts of sugar that people eat on a daily basis can really add up.
When examining grocery labels for sugar, look for these ingredients: Agave syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane juice, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, date sugar, dextran, dextrin, ethyl maltol, fruit juice concentrate, dehydrated fruit juice, fruit juice crystals, golden syrup, invert sugar, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, refiner's sugar, sorghum, turbinado, and yellow sugar.
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In addition, many hidden names for sugar contain the suffix, "-ose." These ingredients include:
- High-fructose corn syrup
Better Sugar Alternatives
Processed sugar offers empty calories with no nutritional benefits. People looking for better alternatives to sugar can try any of these products:
Stevia: Native to South America, stevia is an herb that is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It has no calories and diabetics can use it because it has no glycemic impact on blood sugar.
Coconut Palm Sugar: This sugar is manufactured by heating sap from the coconut palm, evaporating the water content, and reducing it to granules. While it is more nutritious than sugar and features a low glycemic impact, it offers the same number of calories as sugar.
Raw Honey: While people get minimal nutritional benefits from processed honey, raw honey offers antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients. Whole food stores are the best sources for authentic, raw honey.
Blackstrap Molasses: Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of iron and calcium. Because it is sweeter than sugar, people need less of it. It makes a good alternative to sugar in baked products.