Added Sugars vs Natural Sugars

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Caitlyn McDonagh

There continues to be confusion about natural and added sugars in foods. Read on to become an expert!

What are natural sugars?

  • Natural sugars are the sugars that occur naturally in whole foods. Most natural sugars found in fruits are fructose, and in dairy products like cheese and milk are lactose. Foods that contain natural sugars can help prevent disease because of the additional essential nutrients and health benefits they provide.

The next time your snacking on a crisp fall apple think of the fiber you’re getting. And when enjoying a yogurt parfait with fruits, you can be happy your bones are staying strong with calcium from yogurt!

What are added sugars?

  • Added sugars are any sugars or sweeteners that are added to a food or beverage during packaging or processing. Most of the food items that contain large amounts of added sugars include sugary beverages like soda, coffee drinks, cakes and candy.
  • Many consumers know added sugar is in breakfast cereals, especially kids’ cereals, but may not realize added sugars can be hidden in their favorite jarred tomato sauce, or ketchup!

How Can You Know About Added Sugar in Food? Read the Nutrition Facts Label! nutrition facts label

Reading the nutrition facts label on each product is the easiest way to check for added sugars in a product.

  • The American Heart Association recommends that no one eats more than 6% of their calories from added sugars.1
    • For women that is about 6 teaspoons a day
    • For men about 9 teaspoons a day
  • Looking on the label for the term “added sugars” can tell you how many grams of added sugar are included (as shown by the image on the right).
  • The most accurate way to tell the difference between added sugars and natural sugars in a product is by looking at the ingredients list. They are listed in descending order, which means you can tell where most of the sugar may be coming from.
  • Ingredient names that also mean sugar:
    • Maltose, Dextrose, Malt syrup, Brown sugar, Cane sugar
      sugar infographic

      If you love the carbonation of soda and find it a hard habit to break, check out how to make a healthier soda to decrease the sugar you take in from regular soda! 

    • Cranberry Lime Soda

      • Ingredients:
        • 2 cups of 100% cranberry juice (or juice flavor of your choice).
          • Always choose 100% fruit juice as it contains no added sugars.
        • 2 cups of lime seltzer water (or any seltzer water of your choice).
        • 2 fresh limes
      • Directions:
      1. Take a large pitcher and pour the cranberry juice and seltzer water into it.
      2. Cut both limes in half and squeeze the juice into the pitcher.
      3. Take a large spoon and stir the mixture.
      4. Grab a small glass and add ice and pour the soda into the glass.
      5. Take whatever is left in the pitcher and store in the refrigerator until your thirsty again!





       This material is funded by UDSA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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