Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods
We tend to think that added sugar (any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others) is mainly found in desserts like cookies and cakes, but it's also found in many savory foods, such as bread and pasta sauce. And some foods promoted as "natural" or "healthy" are laden with added sugars, compounding the confusion. In fact, manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets.1 So, even if you skip dessert, you may still be consuming more added sugar than is recommended.
How do I know if I'm eating added sugar?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food producers to list all ingredients in their foods. But added sugar comes in many forms – which is why it's so hard to find on the ingredients label.
There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. These include common names, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others.
While product labels list total sugar content, manufacturers are not required to say whether that total includes added sugar, which makes it difficult to know how much of the total comes from added sugar and how much is naturally occurring in ingredients such as fruit or milk. That makes it very difficult to account for how much added sugar we're consuming.
How much is ok?
Daily Added Sugar Limits Women: 6 tsp. (25g) Men: 9 tsp. (38g) Children: 3-6 tsp. (12-25g)
Even "healthy" foods can be high in sugar
With as many as 11 teaspoons (46.2 grams) of added sugar in some 12-oz. sodas, a single serving exceeds the AHA recommendation for men and is about twice the allowance for women and children. But sugar isn't only in beverages and sweet baked goods. Here are some healthy-looking items you might find in the supermarket that also have high sugar contents:
- One leading brand of yogurt contains 7 teaspoons (29 grams) of sugar per serving.
- A breakfast bar made with "real fruit" and "whole grains" lists 15 grams of sugar.
- A single cup of bran cereal with raisins, in a box advertising "no high-fructose corn syrup," contains 20 grams of sugar per serving.
- A cranberry/pomegranate juice product, also advertising "no high-fructose corn syrup" and "100% Vitamin C," contains 30 grams of added sugar per 8 oz. serving. Some of the sugar is naturally occurring, but some of it has been added.
The 61 Names for Sugar
Barley malt syrup
Cane juice crystals
Coconut palm sugar
Corn syrup solids
Dehydrated cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fruit juice concentrate
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)