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How to Identify Hidden Sugar (10 Most Common Names of Sugar)

Sugar is still sugar, and the body still processes it the same—no matter what the source or name is. In order to fully empowered when making the healthiest purchases at the grocery store, know this:

Sugar is hiding in places you may not even know to look (like ketchup, canned soups and whole-grain bread!?)

To help you decode your food labels, here are some of the many names of sugar and common sweeteners. If at all possible, avoid consuming these (or at least really limit your intake):

1. Agave

Agave is made up of a combination of fructose and glucose derived from the same plant as tequila: the agave plant. This sweet nectar is commercially produced, and it is actually sweeter than most sugars. It’s a touch sweeter than honey, and offers a unique, natural flavor. It’s fructose content can be as high as 90 percent. Agave is commonly found in cocktails and coffee beverages.

2. Aspartame

Aspartame is sold under many brand names, including Equal and NutraSweet. This low-calorie sweetener is really just a chemical substitution for sugar. Found in many sugar-free and low-calorie products like diet soda, this food additive is approved by the FDA as safe – but there have been adverse reactions to it, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, muscle spasms, weight gain, depression, fatigue and more. In addition, aspartame has been linked to the development of chronic illnesses. Since Aspartame includes aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, many people consider this ingredient toxic.1

3. Fructose

Fructose is a simple sugar naturally found in fruit. It is not nearly as sweet as the chemical substitutes or refined sugar, and it is probably the healthiest form of sugar out there. Fructose is found in fruit, honey, and agave.

4. Glucose

Glucose is found in blood sugar and muscles. This sugar is an important nutrient for muscle development and overall health. Maintaining healthy glucose stores is a common goal of athletes. This simple sugar is a compound that makes up more complex sugars, and it is commonly found in sports drinks.

Hidden Sugars | Nucific

5. Honey

A naturally occurring sugar, honey contains tons of antioxidants and other nutrients that make it a preferred sweetener for beverages and recipes. It contains a blend of fructose and glucose, and it is sweeter than your average refined sugar. Honey is commonly found in whole grain breads, granola bars, and cereals. Adding a touch of raw honey to your diet can boost your immune system, and may help improve your resistance to local allergens, as it contains small amounts of local pollen.

6. Lactose

This isn’t as sweet as other varieties of sugar but is still considered a sugar. Lactose is actually a blend of two of the building blocks of sugar: glucose and galactose. It is commonly found in dairy products and milk.

7. Saccharin

This sweetener, found in that soft pink pack of Sweet N’ Low, is really just a chemical sweetener. This sugar substitute is a white powder that is about 500 times sweeter than refined sugar, and it is commonly used as a low-calorie alternative. Researchers are still working to find out if this chemical sweetener increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses. Saccharin is found in snack foods and diet soda, and it is used to extend shelf life.

8. Stevia

Stevia is a naturally occurring sweetener made from the dried leaves of a shrub native to South America. This non-sugar is used as a powder in recipes, and used to sweeten diet soda drinks.

9. Sucralose

Sucralose, which goes by the brand name Splenda, is a low-calorie, sugar alternative derived from sugar cane. Sucralose can be found in over 600 products, including lite and sugar-free versions of ice cream, yogurt, teas, and Atkins products.

Hidden Sugars | Nucific

10. Sucrose

Sucrose is regular table sugar. It contains a 50/50 blend of glucose and fructose, and it is derived from sugarcane or sugar beets. You’ll find this in bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, dressings, and more.

Sneaky Sugar!

There are approximately 50 different names of sugar – so many, it can be difficult to know just how much of the sweet stuff you are eating and drinking. Remember these 10 common names of sugar, and aim to only consume less than 25 grams per day to stay within the daily recommendation of the American Heart Association.2

For more helpful health tips, keep reading:

Harvard Scientists Paid To Lie About Sugar Health Risks

Sweetened to Death: Exposing Sugar for What It Is



“Aspartame | C14H18N2O5 – Pubchem”. N.p., 2007. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

2 Sugar 101. American Heart Association.”Sugar 101″. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.


About the Author

Dr. Amy Lee

Dr. Amy Lee has board certifications in internal medicine, physician nutrition and obesity medicine specialty. She practices internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on nutrition, wellness and weight management. Her Clinical nutrition fellowship training at UCLA has allowed her to incorporate realistic lifestyle modification in all her medicine patients.