Hidden Sources of Added Sugar

By Deborah Jeffery, RDN

Due to the negative health effects of a high added sugar intake, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that added sugars be limited to less than 10% of a person’s total daily caloric intake. For most, this is the equivalent of 10-12 teaspoons or about 25-35 grams of added sugar. Added sugars are sugars that are added during the processing or preparation of foods and beverages. Added sugar is obviously in products such as sweetened beverages, candy, cookies, and ice cream.  However along with these intuitive sources of added sugar, we also need to be concerned about the added sugars that we don’t even realize that we’re consuming.

Many processed foods like cereal, sports drinks, coffee beverages, BBQ sauce, salad dressing, granola bars, and sweetened yogurt, may be significant sources of added sugar. It’s estimated that there are 56 different names for added sugar that can be listed on a food label. A partial list includes:

Agave Nectar

Fruit Juice Concentrate

Barley Malt

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Beet Sugar


Blackstrap Molasses


Cane Juice Crystals

Maple Syrup


Sorghum Syrup

Evaporated Cane Juice

Rice Sugar

Refer to the product’s Nutrition Facts panel to get the facts on a product’s sugar content. Currently, the “Sugars” number on the fact panel includes both added sugars and natural sugars from fruits and milk. This happens in products like sweetened yogurts and cereals with added fruit. The new Nutrition Facts label required on products in July 2018 will list added sugars in grams and as percentage of Daily Value.

For now if a food has little or no milk or fruit, the “Sugars” number will tell you how many grams of added sugar are in each serving. To get the calories from sugar, multiply the grams by 4. To get teaspoons of sugar, divide the grams by 4. Additionally, the ingredients on a product are listed in order of amount, with the ingredient used in the greatest amount first, then followed by the other ingredients in descending order. If an added sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, you’ll want to make a different selection to help prevent developing an expanding waistline and chronic health disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.