Sugar-containing ingredients
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Sugar-containing ingredients

Now that you know that there is little difference between brown sugar vs white sugar, that added sugar consumption in Australia is higher than it should be and how to read food labels, it is time to put it all together by looking at sugar-containing ingredients.

What is sugar?

The term sugar “refers to all carbohydrates of the general formula Cn(H2O)n” (1). Single sugars such as glucose and fructose are known as monosaccharides. Two monosaccharides linked together (e.g. sucrose = glucose + fructose, lactose = glucose + galactose) are known as disaccharides. Many sugars linked together are known as polysaccharides.

Added and free sugars

As a reminder, added sugars are those that don’t occur naturally in foods and free sugars include added sugars and the sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates (1).

Also as a reminder, free sugars should be limited to 10% or less of your daily energy intake as recommended by the World Health Organisation (2).

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend to limit the intake of added sugars with no specific target (3).

Sugar-containing ingredients

Sugar-containing ingredients can appear in food labels under lots of names. These include natural, added and free sugars. The way they are metabolised in our bodies might differ, so they are not necessarily 100% equivalent. Regardless, all contribute toward your total sugar intake.

There are a few reasons why manufacturers may include several types of sugar in a product. In some cases this is because different types of sweeteners contribute different physical properties in the finished product. This can also be a strategy to cut costs by using cheaper ingredients. Another reason to include multiple sweetener ingredients is so that they don’t appear early in the ingredients list (remember that ingredients on packages are listed in descending order by weight). The moral here is that you should read the full ingredients list instead of just the few first ingredients.

Note that the words “organic”, “non-GMO”, “natural”, “all natural”, “vegan”, etc. do not automatically make ingredients healthier.

I’ve put together the lists of sugar ingredients below using mostly the OpenFoodFacts.org ingredients file.

Sugars, honeys and syrups

Most of these can be immediately identified as sugars but some are a little obscure. Some enjoy a “healthy food halo” and some are demonised, but they all contribute to your energy intake and rise your blood sugar to some extent.

  • acacia honey
  • barley malt syrup
  • blackstrap molasses
  • blend of honeys
  • blonde cane sugar
  • blue agave nectar
  • blue agave syrup
  • brown rice syrup
  • brown rice syrup solids
  • brown sugar
  • brown sugar molasses
  • brown sugar syrup
  • burnt sugar syrup
  • cane and beet sugar
  • cane invert syrup
  • cane juice
  • cane juice solids
  • cane molasses
  • cane sugar
  • cane sugar syrup
  • cane syrup
  • cane syrups
  • caramel sugar syrup
  • caramel syrup
  • caramelised sugar
  • caramelised sugar syrup
  • caramelized sugar
  • caramelized sugar syrup
  • caster sugar
  • certified cane sugar
  • cinnamon sugar
  • clover honey
  • coconut nectar
  • coconut sugar
  • coconut syrup
  • confectioner sugar
  • confectioners sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • corn and malt syrup
  • corn sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • crystalline fructose
  • cultured cane sugar
  • cultured corn sugar
  • cultured corn syrup solids
  • cultured sugar
  • dark brown sugar
  • date syrup
  • dehydrated cane juice
  • dehydrated glucose syrup
  • demerara sugar
  • dried cane syrup
  • dried sugar cane syrup
  • dry honey
  • dry molasses
  • evaporated cane juice
  • evaporated cane sugar
  • evaporated cane syrup
  • evaporated sugar cane
  • fancy molasses
  • fructose syrup
  • fructose-glucose syrup
  • glucose
  • glucose solids
  • glucose syrup
  • glucose syrup solids
  • glucose-fructose
  • glucose-fructose syrup
  • golden syrup
  • granulated sugar
  • grape sugar
  • high fructose
  • high fructose corn sweetener
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • high fructose syrup
  • high maltose corn syrup
  • honey
  • honey solids
  • icing sugar
  • invert cane sugar
  • invert evaporated cane syrup
  • invert sugar
  • invert sugar syrup
  • lactose
  • lactose powder
  • light amber honey
  • light brown sugar
  • light corn syrup
  • liquid brown sugar
  • liquid glucose
  • liquid invert sugar
  • liquid sucrose
  • liquid sugar
  • malt syrup
  • malted barley syrup
  • malted corn and barley syrup
  • maltose
  • maltose syrup
  • maple sugar
  • maple syrup
  • milk sugar
  • molasses
  • molasses solids
  • muscovado sugar
  • oat syrup solids
  • orange blossom honey
  • palm sugar
  • pineapple syrup
  • powdered sugar
  • pure cane sugar
  • pure honey
  • pure maple syrup
  • raw caster sugar
  • raw honey
  • raw sugar
  • raw white honey
  • real sugar
  • refined cane sugar
  • refined sugar
  • refiners syrup
  • refiner’s syrup
  • refinery syrup
  • rice syrup
  • rice syrup solids
  • sorghum syrup
  • starch syrup
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • sugar beet syrup
  • sugar cane syrup
  • sugar corn syrup
  • sugar syrup
  • sugarcane molasses
  • syrup
  • syrup blend
  • tapioca syrup solids
  • thyme honey
  • trehalose
  • turbinado sugar
  • unrefined cane sugar
  • unrefined sugar
  • unsulphured molasses
  • wheat glucose syrup
  • wheat syrup
  • white cane sugar
  • white sugar
  • whole cane sugar
  • wildflower honey

Juice and fruit concentrates

I’ve used apple as an example, many other juices and purees are used in food manufacturing. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice counts as one serve of fruit (3), however eating the whole fruit is best.

  • apple concentrate
  • apple juice concentrate
  • apple juice from concentrate
  • apple puree concentrate
  • apple puree from concentrate
  • concentrated apple juice
  • concentrated fruit and vegetable juice
  • concentrated juice
  • fruit and vegetable concentrates
  • fruit and vegetable juice concentrate
  • fruit concentrates
  • fruit juice concentrate

Dried fruits

Dried fruits are not inherently unhealthy but they are a concentrated source of sugar. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, small amounts of dried fruit can count towards your daily fruit intake (3), however fresh is best.

  • black raisins
  • currants
  • date*
  • dried apple
  • dried apple pieces
  • dried banana
  • dried cranberries
  • dried dates
  • dried fruit and nut blend
  • dried fruits
  • dried goji berries
  • dried raspberries
  • dried tart cherries
  • evaporated apples
  • freeze dried raspberries
  • freeze dried strawberries
  • golden raisins
  • medjool dates*
  • sultana raisins
  • sultanas

* Although dates can be found fresh, they are very high in natural sugars.

Chemical compounds

These are non-naturally occurring substances that are used as sweeteners and contribute to energy intake.

  • anhydrous dextrose
  • cerelose
  • corn dextrin
  • corn dextrose
  • corn maltodextrin
  • cultured dextrose
  • cultured dextrose and maltodextrin
  • dextrose
  • dextrose monohydrate
  • D-glucose
  • isomaltulose
  • maltodextrin
  • maltodextrine
  • maltodextrins
  • potato maltodextrin
  • rice dextrin
  • rice dextrins
  • rice maltodextrin
  • short chain fructo oligosaccharides
  • sucromalt
  • tapioca dextrin
  • tapioca dextrose
  • tapioca maltodextrin
  • vegetable glycerine
  • vegetable glycerol

Other

The following are examples of ingredients that might show up in packages and should be considered as sources of sugar.

  • apricot jam
  • banana chips
  • caramel paste
  • caramel sauce
  • caramel swirl
  • caramel topping
  • condensed milk
  • condensed semi skimmed milk
  • crystallized ginger
  • date paste
  • fig paste
  • raisin paste
  • raspberry jam
  • sweetened condensed semi skimmed milk
  • sweetened condensed whole milk

Summary and recommendations

Sugar-containing ingredients have many names, some of which can be hard to identify. Statistics show that average added sugar intake is higher than recommended, so it’s important to be aware what are those sources of sugar in products, particularly in foods that you eat on a regular basis. Finally, quantity matters. A food product with added sugars is not inherently evil if the amount of sugar within the serving size you are eating is relatively low (check my article on how to read food labels for more tips).

Finally, a reminder that if you are an athlete, you are eating for performance and not only for health. Speak to your sports dietitian if you are concerned about your added sugar intake.

References

  1. Clarke MA, Singh RP. Sugar: Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.; [cited 2020 09/08/2020]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/science/sugar-chemical-compound.
  2. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015.
  3. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013.

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