Sources of sugar in food

Sources of sugar in your food

Sugar is present in several food products and sometimes  food can be unappetizing if it’s not present. It is added to products like breads, dairy-based foods, salad dressings, and sauces. The sugar is added not just to impart sweetness. It’s also used to extend shelf life and adjust attributes like the texture, body, color, and browning capability of food.

You need to understand key sources of sugar if you are trying to reduce consumption.

(Sugar) sweetened beverages.

Beverages are a common high sugar source and may include any of the following:

  • regular soda
  • juice drinks, like fruit punch and juice “cocktails” (but not whole fruit and vegetable juices)
  • energy drinks
  • sports drinks
  • sweet tea
  • sweetened coffee drinks

It’s important not to confuse sugar-sweetened juice drinks with whole fruit juices. Processed beverages like orange juice, fruit juices punch contain a fair amount of added sugar— at times to counter the naturally sour taste of some fruits. This is an example of a fruit drink that is also a sugar-sweetened beverage, and therefore a source of added sugar. Whole (100% fruit) juices contain only the sugars in the juice extracted from the fruit or vegetable. However, it’s a good idea to limit even whole juices in your diet.

Sugar-sweetened drinks can pump a large amount of added sugar into your body, and quickly. These beverages are not as filling as sweet whole foods like fruit, so it’s easier to consume a lot of them.

Sweets and desserts.

Brownies, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, and pastries, and are just some of the processed foods widely understood to contain substantial amounts of added sugar.

Honey and syrups.

Sugars naturally present in honey and syrups, including maple syrup, are also considered added sugars. Although honey and syrup are sold as freestanding products, you don’t eat them by themselves. They are added into hot drinks, drizzled on pancakes and waffles, or added during baking or making sweets.


Condiments are defined as spices, sauces, or other preparations that you add to food to enhance its flavor. Tomato ketchup, relish, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and salsa are condiments, and they can contain considerable amounts of sugar per serving.

Prepared foods.

A vast variety of prepared foods contain additional sweeteners. Breakfast cereals contain added sugar, but so do ready-to-eat meals, breads, soups, tomato sauces, snacks, and cured meats.

Among the many processed and prepared foods with added sugar are sugar-sweetened yogurts. Plain unsweetened yogurt contains naturally occurring milk sugars, but added sugar can double or triple the total amount of sugar.


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