Added sugar has taken the spotlight as the ingredient to avoid in the modern diet.

On average, Americans eat about 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day (1).

Most of this is hidden within processed foods, so people don’t even realize they’re eating it.

All this sugar may be a key factor in several major illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes (2, 3).

Sugar goes by many different names, so it can be difficult to figure out how much of it a food actually contains.

This article lists 56 different names for sugar.

First, let’s briefly explain what added sugars are and how the different types can affect your health.

What is added sugar?

During processing, sugar is added to food to enhance flavor, texture, shelf life, or other properties.

Added sugar is usually a mixture of simple sugars such as sucrose, glucose, or fructose. Other types, such as galactose, lactose, and maltose, are less common.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that the amount of added sugar that a food or beverage contains is listed on the nutrition facts label. The label must also list the percent Daily Value (DV).

Meanwhile, single-ingredient sugars and syrups, such as table sugar and maple syrup, have a slightly different nutrition facts label.

For those products, the label will include the percent DV of added sugar. This information may also appear in a footnote at the bottom of the label along with the amount of added sugar (4).

Summary

Sugar is commonly added to processed foods. The FDA has defined “sugar” and requires that certain sugars be labeled as “added sugars” in food products.

Glucose or fructose — Does it matter?

In short, yes. Glucose and fructose — even though they’re very common and often found together — may have different effects on your body. Glucose can be metabolized by nearly every cell in your body, while fructose is metabolized almost entirely in the liver (5).

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the harmful effects of high sugar consumption (6, 7, 8).

These include insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes.

As such, eating excessive amounts of any type of sugar should be avoided.

Summary

Added sugar goes by many names, and most types consist of glucose or fructose. Avoiding excessive intakes of sugar in your daily diet is an important health strategy.

1. Sugar/sucrose

Sucrose is the most common type of sugar.

Often called “table sugar,” it’s a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many fruits and plants.

Table sugar is usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets. It consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, bound together.

Sucrose is found in many foods. A few of them include:

Summary

Sucrose is also known as table sugar. It occurs naturally in many fruits and plants, and it’s added to all sorts of processed foods. It consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

2. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a widely used sweetener, especially in the United States.

It’s produced from corn starch via an industrial process. It consists of both fructose and glucose.

There are several different types of HFCS containing varying amounts of fructose.

The two most common varieties used in foods and beverages are:

  • HFCS 55. This is the most common type of HFCS. It contains 55% fructose, nearly 45% glucose, and water.
  • HFCS 42. This form contains 42% fructose, and the remainder is glucose and water (9).

HFCS has a composition similar to that of sucrose (50% fructose and 50% glucose).

HFCS is found in many foods and beverages, especially in the United States. These include:

  • soda
  • breads
  • cookies
  • candy
  • ice cream
  • cakes
  • cereal bars
Summary

High fructose corn syrup is produced from corn starch. It consists of varying amounts of fructose and glucose, but the composition is essentially the same as sucrose or table sugar.

3. Agave nectar

Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, is a very popular sweetener produced from the agave plant.

It’s commonly used as a “healthy” alternative to sugar because it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as many other sugar varieties.

However, agave nectar contains about 70–90% fructose and 10–30% glucose.

It’s used in many “health foods,” such as fruit bars, sweetened yogurts, and cereal bars.

Summary

Agave nectar or syrup is produced from the agave plant. It contains 70–90% fructose and 10–30% glucose.

4–37. Other sugars with glucose and fructose

Most added sugars and sweeteners contain both glucose and fructose.

Here are a few examples:

Summary

These sugars all contain varying amounts of both glucose and fructose.

38–52. Sugars with glucose

These sweeteners contain pure glucose or glucose that’s combined with sugars other than fructose. These other sugars may include other sugars such as galactose:

  • barley malt
  • brown rice syrup
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrin
  • dextrose
  • diastatic malt
  • ethyl maltol
  • glucose
  • glucose solids
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltodextrin
  • maltose
  • rice syrup
Summary

These sugars are comprised of glucose, either on its own or in combination with sugars other than fructose.

53–54. Sugars with fructose only

These two sweeteners contain only fructose:

  • crystalline fructose
  • fructose
Summary

Pure fructose is simply called fructose or crystalline fructose.

55–56. Other sugars

There are a few added sugars that contain neither glucose nor fructose. They’re less sweet and less common, but they’re sometimes used as sweeteners:

  1. D-ribose
  2. galactose
Summary

D-ribose and galactose aren’t as sweet as glucose and fructose, but they’re also used as sweeteners.

There’s no need to avoid naturally occurring sugars

There’s no reason to avoid the sugar that’s naturally present in whole foods.

Fruit, vegetables, and dairy products naturally contain small amounts of sugar but also fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds.

The negative health effects of high sugar consumption are due to the massive amount of added sugar that’s present in the Western diet.

The most effective way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat mostly whole and minimally processed foods.

However, if you decide to buy packaged foods, be on the lookout for the many different names that sugar goes by.