If you saw the title of this article and thought ‘What the? More than 60 names for sugar?!’ – I hear you.
When I discovered all the alternative names for sugar in disguise that I share below, and started looking at labels more closely, I was shocked!
There are some super sneaky sugar names out there.
Some don’t sound like sugar at all, but a random ingredient that could well be a stabiliser, preservative or flavour enhancer.
You might be wondering – why is this the case? Why the need to put sugar in disguise?
Well, once the adverse effects of sugar on health became well known, consumers started looking more closely at ingredients lists.
If sugar was in the first, second or third place in the list, they’d typically avoid buying that product.
Manufacturers wised up and shook up the ingredients list by introducing these alternative sugars so ‘sugar’ wasn’t so prominent on their ingredients lists.
In case you’re not aware – manufacturers are obligated to list their ingredients in order of predominance of each ingredient.
Take a cake for example.
If the manufacturer only uses refined table sugar, sugar would be the first or second ingredient in the list.
Whereas if the manufacturer uses 3 or 4 types of the alternative names for sugar below (which I’ve seen many times), these ingredients will be spread out through the list. Et voilà! We have sugar in disguise.
So to an untrained eye, the ingredients list might not look so bad – especially if none of those names sounded like sugar.
Hence while sugar content is easy to identify on nutritional info labels, it can be a little trickier when it comes to ingredients.
And this is especially so since alternative sugars have been introduced, as they’re flying under consumers’ radars because they’re simply not aware of them.
So what are these sugars made from?
If you’re keen to be a super savvy sugar sleuth, or you’ve been looking at the ingredients lists on labels for a while and wondering what these sugars in food are made from, here’s an overview of the most common names for sugar.
(If you’re not interested in the detail – jump to the bottom of the article where I give you the whole list of alternative names for sugar).
Brown sugar is typically made from sugar crystals contained in molasses syrup with natural flavour and colour. Some refiners make brown sugar by adding syrup to refined white sugar. It contains 91-96% sucrose (so is half glucose and half fructose).
Cane juice/evaporated cane juice
Cane juice/evaporated cane juice is made from sugar cane and consists of two simple sugars – glucose and fructose.
Corn syrup is produced by the action of enzymes and/or acids on corn starch, which splits the starch into sugars. Three major producers’ corn syrup contain 42%, 55% and 90% fructose. Dextrose comprises of the remainder.
Dextrose or glucose is also known as corn sugar. It’s commercially made from starch by the action of heat and acids or enzymes. It’s sold blended with regular sugar.
High-fructose corn syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn starch. The amount of fructose varies based on the manufacturer. An enzyme linked process increases the fructose content, making high-fructose corn syrup sweeter than regular corn syrup.
Invert sugar is a mixture of glucose and fructose. Invert sugar is formed by splitting sucrose in a process called inversion. This sugar prevents crystallisation of cane sugar in confectionery production.
Lactose, AKA milk sugar, is made from whey and skim milk from cow’s milk. The most common place you’ll find lactose as an ingredient is in pharmaceutical products.
Levulose (fructose) is a commercial sugar much sweeter than sucrose. Its sweetness depends on its physical form and how it’s used in cooking. Fructose, known as fruit sugar, occurs naturally in many fruits – which is fine when you eat a whole fruit with fibre to slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream, yet can be problematic when added as an ingredient without fibre.
Raw sugar consists of coarse, granulated crystals formed from the evaporation of sugar cane juice. Raw sugar contains impurities and cannot be sold in grocery stores due to food safety regulations.
Sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol
Sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitolare sugar alcohols or polyols. They occur naturally in fruits and are produced commercially from sources as dextrose. Some people experience side effects like digestive upset when consuming sugar alcohols, particularly sorbitol.
The 68 names for sugar in disguise: alternative names for sugar
Print out the list below and keep it with you – or bookmark this page on your phone and you’ll never be caught out! (there’s also a handy infographic at the end you can save to your phone or device).
- Barbados sugar
- Barley malt
- Beet concentrate
- Beet sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Buttered sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Castor sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalline fructose
- Date sugar
- Date syrup / molasses
- Demerara sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Diatase (this isn’t sugar, but an enzyme that breaks down starch into maltose, then glucose)
- Ethyl maltol
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape concentrate
- Grape mist
- Grape sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Oat syrup
- Raw sugar
- Refinerʼs syrup
- Rice bran syrup
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Tapioca syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
You might be wondering – are any of these sugars better than others?
If you’re assessing sweets or cakes at a health food store, or wanting to bake your own, there are three sugar alternatives I recommend – raw honey, date syrup/molasses and blackstrap molasses.
One of the problems with refined sugars like sucrose, table sugar, is that it’s devoid of micronutrients, and also uses nutrients in your body to process.
Let me explain.
Sucrose is extracted from either sugar cane or beets and then refined.
During processing, it’s stripped of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
This kind of sugar requires extra effort from your body to digest and assimilate.
Your body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly.
Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, refined sugar creates deficiencies.
However when it comes to molasses, date syrup, and honey, these typically still contain all their vitamins and minerals.
Date syrup has been shown to contain the most vitamins and minerals, however blackstrap molasses is a great source of iron, and we can’t forget honey’s medicinal, immune supporting properties!
If you’re wondering about artificial sweeteners, the safest options are Stevia and Luo Han (AKA Monk Fruit).
Others have known side effects and health concerns, particularly Aspartame, Acesulfame K and Sucralose.
Artificial sweeteners can trick the body into thinking you’ve consumed something sweet, causing insulin to be released. This can lead to fat storage, and can increase appetite, which those consuming sweeteners want to avoid.
I don’t know about you, but i’m an advocate of eating natural foods – not something created in a lab!
I hope this article is a valuable resource for you. You now know all about the types of sugar in disguise in food.
To your health,
PS: A challenge for you. Go through the products in your pantry or fridge and take a snap of one that contains 2 or more of these sugars in disguise you’ll no longer consume. Then post it in the comments with your commitment to no longer eat that product, or find a healthier alternative 😉
Melissa is a naturopathic nutritionist and health coach who helps exhausted women get their energy back. She consults with people worldwide via the web from her home in Melbourne, Australia.