Cedars-Sinai Blog

How to Spot Hidden Sugar

Eating too much sugar can lead to a lot of negative consequences

Hidden danger

There are 2 types of sugar in your diet:

  1. Naturally occurring sugar, which comes from foods such as fruits, whole grains, dairy, rice, and starchy vegetables like peas, corn, beans, and sweet potatoes.
  2. Added sugar, which is added during processing or preparation of food products. This kind of sugar is included in obvious food items like candy, soda, and cakes, but it can also be in places you don’t expect, like pasta sauce, salad dressing, and yogurt under many different names.

Are they both created equal? No, according to Cedars-Sinai registered dietitian Rachele Dependahl. "Stick to food items with natural sugar like complex carbohydrates and whole foods rather than items with added sugar like refined carbohydrates, desserts, and junk food," she says.

You should keep your intake of added sugars to less than 5% of total daily calories as part of a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men.

Source: American Heart Association

Unfortunately, you can't easily tell when a food product has natural or added sugars.

"At this point in time, manufacturers are not required to list if sugar is naturally occurring or added in the nutrition facts section on food labels," says Rachele. "Look in the ingredients section for keywords."

Keep an eye out for the following words to help you spot a form of added sugar.

Friend or Foe?

Is it really sugar-free?