56 Different Names for Sugar in Your Food

How to Recognize Sugar on Food Labels

Woman checking nutrition label on box

Jamie Grill / The Image Bank / Getty Images

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommend that you keep your intake of added sugar to less than 10% of your total daily calories. Sounds simple, right? Well, it would be if there weren't so many different words for sugar used on food labels.

Sweeteners may be added to your food under a wide range of names—none of which sound like sugar. Some of the names may be unfamiliar. And sugars may be added to foods that you wouldn't expect. For these reasons, it is smart to learn the different words for sugar so you can spot it in your food and decide if the products are right for you.

What Are Added Sugars?

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate sometimes called “simple carbohydrates.” Sugars occur naturally in many foods, such as the fructose found in fruit or the lactose in milk.

But in some cases, manufacturers also add extra sugars to processed foods, sometimes to add or balance flavor. For example, sugar might be added to a savory salad dressing, to peanut butter, or to spaghetti sauce. Or a sweetener might be used to thicken or add texture to food.

Added sugars also include any sugar product that you add to your food at mealtime. This may include table sugar that you add to your morning coffee or cereal. It may also include syrup that you drizzle on your pancakes or agave syrup that you put in your smoothie.

Why Added Sugars Matter

Anyone who is looking to improve their eating habits should be aware of added sugars. In many cases, you may be consuming far more sugar than you realize and if it exceeds recommended guidelines, it can have an impact on your health.

Recommended guidelines according to several national and worldwide health organizations (including the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans) state that added sugars should total no more than 10% of your total daily calorie intake.

According to the National Institutes of Health, several studies have found a direct link between excess sugar consumption and obesity and cardiovascular problems worldwide.

Sugar on Food Labels

There are two ways to find sugar using food labels.

Nutrition Facts

The newest version of the Nutrition Facts label requires food manufacturers to list total sugar in grams and added sugar in grams on the Nutrition Facts label. This helps consumers determine how much sugar is in their food. You'll see two different line items on the label:

  • Total Sugars includes grams of sugar that are present naturally in the food (such as lactose in milk or fructose in fruit) in addition to sugar that has been added during processing for flavor or texture.
  • Added sugar includes grams of sugar or caloric sweeteners that have been added during processing.

Remember that dietary recommendations suggest a 10% limit on added sugars. This line item on the Nutrition Facts label provides a percent daily value in addition to total grams for added sugars based on a 2000 calorie diet. If you consume more calories or fewer calories you'll have to adjust the percent.

Ingredients List

Ingredients are listed in descending order according to the amount included in the food. For example, the first ingredient in bread is usually some type of flour, because there is more flour than any other ingredient. Water is usually the first ingredient listed in many beverages.

Sometimes there can be small amounts of many types of sugars, so none of them end up listed in the first few ingredients of the label—even if the food contains substantial amounts of added sugar. For this reason, it is smart to use the Nutrition Facts label to determine the total amount of added sugar in your food.

Other times, sugar masquerades as a different type of ingredient, such as honey, rice syrup, fruit juice, or even “organic dehydrated cane juice.” Because the word "sugar" is not part of the name, it doesn't sound like it is sugar.

Lastly, keep in mind that reading the ingredients list can be helpful for other reasons. For instance, if you have a food allergy or if you are trying to manage low blood sugar, the ingredients list can be helpful.

Different Names for Sugar

These are some of the possible words for “sugar” which may appear on a label.

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane crystals (or cane juice crystals)
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar (or powdered sugar)
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup or corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Florida crystals
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Palm sugar
  • Panela sugar
  • Rapadura
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner's syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar
  • Xylose

You'll notice that the words “syrup,” “sweetener,” and anything ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be sugar. If the label says “no added sugars,” it should not contain any of them, although the food may contain naturally occurring sugars (such as lactose in milk).

Sugar Alcohols

A lot of "sugar-free" foods have ingredients called sugar alcohols in them. These include ingredients such as maltitol and sorbitol. Sugar alcohols aren't sugar and they are not alcohol.

Ingredients ending in "ol" may be sugar alcohols. If you are watching your sugar intake to manage a health condition, get more information about the specific ingredient (and how it might affect your health) before consuming it.

A Word From Verywell

Trying to remember all of the different words for sugar can seem like a daunting task because there are so many different terms to know. But using the Nutrition Facts label can help you determine if a particular food is right for you. Once you get the hang of it, finding hidden sugar in your food becomes easier. Once you learn how to identify sugar, you'll become better at choosing foods that align with your particular nutritional plan and program for wellness.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Get the Facts: Added Sugars. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 6, 2021

  2. Added Sugars on the New Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Updated 03/11/2020

  3. Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors. International Food Information Council (IFIC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Reviewed 02/06/2018

Additional Reading

By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.