How to Spot Added Sugar on Food Labels
Spotting added sugar on the food label requires a bit of detective work. Food and beverage manufacturers must list a product’s total amount of sugar per serving on the Nutrition Facts Panel. But they are not required to list how much of that sugar is added sugar. That’s why you’ll need to scan the ingredients list of a food or drink to find the added sugar. ()
All ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. () So the relative position of sugar in an ingredients list can give you an idea of whether the food contains a lot of sugar or just a smidge. Added sugars go by many different names, yet they are all a source of extra calories. The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that Americans drastically cut back on added sugar, to help slow the obesity and heart disease epidemics.( ) The AHA’s suggested added sugar threshold is no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. But remember—your body doesn’t need to get any carbohydrate from added sugar. A good rule of thumb is to skip products that have added sugar at or near the top of the list—or have several sources of added sugar sprinkled throughout the list.
Here are a few of the names for added sugar that show up on food labels (list adapted from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans ()):
- Agave nectar
- Brown sugar
- Cane crystals
- Cane sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Crystalline fructose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
1. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Chapter 7: Carbohydrates. Accessed on April 5, 2009.
2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2008. A Food Labeling Guide: Chapter IV. Ingredient Lists. Accessed April 10, 2009.
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