Glucose, Sucrose, Fructose, and Other Names for Sugar
As we discussed in a previous post, excess sugar can cause Vitamin D and Vitamin C depletion. Manufacturers add sugar to many foods, including those that you don’t consider sweet. To avoid bragging about it, they list sugar on the nutrition label under up to about 60 different names. Learn what they are, and what patterns the names follow to anticipate future synthesized sugars, to minimize habitual added sugar intake.
Simple sugars have the -ose suffix in their names
All of the sugars named on labels are variations on the -oses. Sometimes they are listed in their basic forms indicated by the -ose suffix, sometimes as the type of sweetener in which they naturally or unnaturally occur. Since ingredients are listed in order of amount, manufacturers often list the simple names and all the other sweeteners in which they occur to avoid front-loading the label with sugar.
Glucose: A monosaccharide, glucose is the simplest sugar. Carbohydrates can’t break down further than glucose. As the end product of the metabolism of carbohydrate foods, glucose is one of the body’s preferred energy sources. While most carbs end up as glucose, fruit is naturally high in this sugar. Sweeteners like molasses, agave, honey, and fruit juices also contain glucose.
Dextrose: This simple sugar is chemically identical to glucose. The name “dextrose” merely specifies that it comes from corn, thus it is the primary sugar in corn syrup.
Fructose: Occurring naturally in fruit, honey, and root vegetables, fructose is the sweetest sugar. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is derived from the syrup from corn. It’s a combination of fructose and glucose and is used to sweeten soda and other processed foods, which causes extremely high consumption that your liver can’t handle. If the demand for fructose metabolism exceeds the liver’s ability to keep up, fructose turns into fat, some of which can accumulate in the liver and impede the organ’s overall function. It’s darn near impossible to OD on fructose from fruit consumption alone since the fibrous nature of fruit naturally prevents extreme overeating. However, you can easily drink sweetened beverages and foods (even those you wouldn’t consider sweet treats) that include HFCS, thereby overloading your liver.
Galactose: Another monosaccharide, galactose is not found often in foods on its own in the quantities of fructose and glucose. It is one of the two sugar molecules that makes up the milk sugar lactose.
Lactose: The sugar that naturally occurs in milk is a disaccharide, composed of glucose and galactose. Lactose monohydrate is powder often added as a filler, sweetener, or stabilizer.
Sucrose: Another name for table sugar, sucrose (once known as saccharose) is made of fructose and glucose. It occurs naturally in sugar cane and sugar beets, which are the sources for the granulated sugar used in baking. As glucose and fructose are found in fruits, it’s no surprise that their combination form occurs in fruits as well.
Maltose: Another naturally occurring sugar, maltose is a disaccharide composed of two glucose molecules. Fruits like peaches and pears contain maltose, as do grains like wheat and barley. Manufacturers have recently been adding maltose as a sweetener due to the growing consumer backlash against fructose.
Ribose: Our bodies make this simple sugar, as do many animals. Beef, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs contain ribose, as do mushrooms. It’s used in athletic performance supplements as manufacturers market the sugar for endurance, energy, and recovery.
Mannose: This simple sugar occurs in small amounts in many fruits. It’s found in dietary supplements marketed for treating urinary tract infections. These simple sugars comprise all the sugar synonyms. Some are obvious with “sugar” in the name, but words like crystals, syrup, nectar, and juice are often code words that describe sugar.
The many names for sugar
- Brown sugar
- Beet sugar
- Cane sugar
- Caster sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Date sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Invert sugar
- Golden sugar
- Maple sugar
- Turbinado sugar
- Palm sugar
- White sugar
- Yellow sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Barley malt syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Evaporated cane syrup
- Glucose syrup
- Golden syrup
- King’s syrup
- Maple syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Treacle (the British name for molasses)
- Florida crystals
- Cane (dehydrated/evaporated) juice
- Fruit juice crystals
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Barley malt
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
Foods you didn’t know contained sugar under its many names
Now that you know all its aliases, here’s where you should look for lurking sugar.
Granola: You might find a variety of the sugar synonyms in granola because, you know, it’s healthy. Not really, in most cases. There are still some low-sugar granola options.
Protein/nutrition/energy bars: Many protein bars are just candy bars with whey protein in the nougat. Energy bars are loaded with sugar because it’s a quick source of energy. Of course, nutrient-dense carbs (like whole fruits) are also broken down into glucose and used for energy, so you can still get a solid workout without consuming straight sugar.
Cereals: It’s not just the products with the toys in the bottom; some of the more plain cereals are loaded with sugar.
Yogurt: Low-fat yogurts are a particular culprit because sugar is often added to make up for fat content. Plain yogurt still has some sugar from lactose, but not the added sugars that pose the problems.
Bread: If you’ve recently become a sourdough baker, good news, your bread is safe. But check the labels of the breads wrapped in plastic.
Pasta sauces: Read the label. Many tomato sauces have added sugar, but not all. Many of the organic or artisanal brands do not include additional sugar.
Condiments: BBQ sauces often are based in brown sugar, but even the more vinegar-based ones often contain sugar. So does ketchup. The condiments contain different types of sugar, so if you prefer standard sugar over HFCS, you can find an option.
Nut and seed butters: Many nut butters contain nothing but nuts and seeds. As long as you read labels, you should find something that has no added sugars.
Dressings: The fewer ingredients, the less likely that you even need a thesaurus to find out if there’s any sugar.
Dried fruit: This can be tricky because fruit has an inherently high sugar content. Which is also why sugar added to dried fruit is unnecessary and easy to avoid if you read the label.
Snack foods: Yes, even crackers and pretzels contain sugar. Read the label, even though the ingredients section has a Dickens-like word count.
Gummy vitamins: Avoid these if you’re old enough to swallow pills. If you want candy, eat candy. You’re more likely to monitor your intake if you think of it as candy, not as something healthy. If you don't like swallowing pills, try liposomal vitamins. They offer a better means of absorption anyway, and the good brands don't contain sugar.
Protein powders: Many high-quality protein powders have very little sugar, maybe 2 grams. If your protein powder has significant sugar, it’s probably not the highest quality overall.
Bottled drinks: Mixers, juice, vitamin-infused water, lemonade, sports drinks, tonic water, and iced teas are filled with sugar and its synonyms.