Many Americans consume more sugar than recommended, so giving up added sugar is a healthy decision to make. But that doesn’t mean all sugar is bad for you. Naturally occurring sugars and added sugars are the two types of sugars in the American diet, according to the American Heart Association, and it’s important you know the difference between them.

Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in our food, such as in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). These sugars are not felt to be associated with increased health risks. You should never feel guilty about eating these natural foods. In fact, eat that apple a day and enjoy.

Added sugars, however, are any sugar that is added to our food or drinks. They are hiding in foods many see as healthy, including energy bars, granola, instant oatmeal and flavored yogurt. Sugar is even added to pasta sauce, salad dressings and ketchup! Reading product labels will guide you to added sugars.

Names for added sugars on food labels:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt sugar
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • You should note that any product that lists milk or fresh fruit in the ingredients will contain some natural sugar, but may have added sugar as well. Flavored dairy products, like vanilla yogurt, will have naturally occurring and added sugar. Stick with the plain varieties.

    Sources of added sugar

    The American Heart Association says the major sources of added sugar in our diet come from:

  • Soft drinks
  • Candy
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pies
  • Fruit drinks, juices
  • Dairy desserts
  • Sweetened milk products such as yogurt and milk
  • Processed grains such as crackers, breakfast cereals, granola and instant oatmeal
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