14 Hidden Sugars to Watch Out for in Processed Foods


Trying to watch your sugar intake? That may be a much taller order than you think. While some foods, such as fruits, are naturally sweet, many other products have been artificially sweetened in some way. The question is: “With what?”

And this is the problem, because manufacturers are extremely resistant to labeling that spells out sugar content in plain English. Why? Because their customers might be shocked to discover how much added sugar is hidden in processed foods – even products claiming to be “healthy.”

Take a look at any nutrition label. You are unlikely to find a line that simply says “sugars,” and you certainly won’t see anything as incriminating as “added sugars.” Yet the information is there – if you know what to look for.

Here are the terms to be on the alert for when scanning your food labels in search of hidden sugars.


High Fructose Corn Syrup

The granddaddy of all added sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup is used in nearly every processed food. It’s made from cornstarch which has been processed to convert some of its natural glucose into fructose.

Corn Sweetener

Due to the negative press around high fructose corn syrup, the term “corn sweetener” has been popping up in recent years. This is a sweetener made from cornstarch, and consists mainly of fructose – essentially the same thing as high fructose corn syrup!

Corn Syrup

Not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup is 100% glucose.

Corn Syrup Solids

This is a sweetener made from concentrated corn syrup.

Malt Syrup

Malt syrup is a sweetener which is extracted from sprouted barley. It’s made up of approximately 60% “maltose,” a sugar that derives its name from barley malt.

Sugar Syrup

This is sugar and water. That’s it. Still, some manufacturers prefer to label it “sugar syrup” as opposed to just “sugar.”


Fruit Juice Concentrates

This usually means fruit juice with most of the water content removed and extra sugar added in.


Dextrose is a sugar made from corn, and is chemically similar to glucose.


Fructose is also known as fruit sugar, since it occurs naturally in many fruit and vegetables. However the fructose found in processed foods is extracted from sugarcane, sugar beet or corn, and contains none of the nutritional benefits of fruit.


This sugar plays an important role in human metabolism. You may have had a blood test to determine your blood glucose level as high levels can cause serious health problems over time. Whole foods are the healthiest source of glucose, however it can be hydrolyzed and added to processed food.


This is a sugar derived from dairy products. It can cause stomach and bowel irritation in those who are lactose intolerant.


This sweetener is derived from sprouted barley and is the main constituent of malt syrup.

Cane sugar

Cane sugar and refined sugar both begin life as juice from sugarcane. They’re processed into sugar crystals, but refined sugar then undergoes further treatment which transforms it into finer granules.


Invert sugar

Made from glucose and fructose, invert sugar is sweeter than refined sugar.

Careful label reading can help to ensure that you’re not consuming more sugar than you mean to. Keep an eye out for the terms mentioned above, as well as descriptions that use words like “crystals,” “syrup,” or “juice.” They are most likely attempts to disguise added sugars!


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