Avoiding hidden sugar bombs in manufactured foods is almost impossible — sugar is a necessary evil in food production. It is the ultimate sweetener, flavor enhancer, texturizer, and preservative. Arm yourself against sugar bombs by learning their secret names, reading food labels and making smarter choices.

We’ve all protested the communal candy bowl at work or waved away dessert in an attempt to avoid sugar. Why? Because studies show that excessive consumption of sugar wreaks havoc on your skin, causes weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Yet sugar is not the enemy, ignorance is.

Sugar bombs have many different aliases (at last count there were 61), so copious amounts hide in foods we think are healthy, like energy bars, salad dressing, yogurt, wheat bread and pasta sauce. Some of the most commonly used are:

Sugar assortiment

Secret sugar bombs

  • Agave: Comes from the agave plant, is about 1.5 times sweeter than white sugar and contains fructose.
  • Barley malt: Made from sprouted barley and significantly less sweet than sugar; available in powder or syrup (extract) forms.
  • Ethyl maltolA sweet smelling, sweet tasting natural compound used as a flavoring. Found in tobacco products, baked goods, chewing gum, and beverages.
  • Golden syrupMade from evaporated sugar cane with a honey color and consistency similar to corn syrup (Also called treacle or refiner’s syrup).
  • Maltrodextrin: Found in soda and candy, it is also used in light peanut butter to reduce fat content and maintain texture.
  • Muscovado: Partially refined to unrefined brown sugar that tastes like molasses. It has a deep flavored, savory profile often found in marinades and barbeque sauces.
  • Ingredients ending in –ose: Dextrose, Fructose, Galactose, Malcrose, Sucrose, Glucose, Lactose
  • Ingredients ending in –tol: Maltitol and Sorbitol are “sugar alcohols” that break down slowly and don’t create a sugar rush. Widely used in sugar-free ice cream, cookies, gum and other products popular with dieters and diabetics.

If some of your favorite foods contain ingredients from the list above, try making your own. You can eliminate up to 30 grams of hidden sugar daily by

  • Replacing your favorite jar of pasta sauce with canned tomatoes, sautéed onions, garlic and fresh herbs.
  • Using whole grain crisp breads (like Wasa or Ryvita) instead of wheat bread or buying bread with no added sugar, like Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 bread.
  • Making your own trail mix from fresh nuts and dried fruits, instead of buying popular energy bars or granola bars.
  • Eating plain oatmeal with cinnamon and fresh fruit instead of store bought breakfast cereals.
Nutritional label

Nutritional label

Limiting your sugar intake can be tricky, but not impossible. Become proactive, informed and label savvy so secret sugar bombs won’t sabotage your health goals.