Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you
Shop our self reflection guide - 30 days to a better you

Grocery Shopping Guide: Sugars

When you go into a store, how many different sugar options do you notice? It seems as if people are becoming more and more aware of the importance of their health and the things they need to do to improve it. However, bombarded with information, oftentimes they find themselves lost and are not sure what is right/wrong or what is true/false. If you want to learn the science behind sugar, you are in the right place!

To understand sugar, we are first going to review some terms we have all (probably) learned in a Biology or Chemistry class. If you never took these classes or you zoned out because it was boring, stay with me, and I promise you, it will be short and sweet!!

What are Carbohydrates?

Macronutrients are nutrients that your body NEEDS to be able to function properly and maintain its structure. (1) They have the prefix macro because they are needed in larger amounts. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Carbohydrates are considered the main energy source. (2) We classify carbohydrates into two categories: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include monosaccharides and disaccharides, while complex carbohydrates encompass all polysaccharides (starch, fiber, and sugar). Depending on how sugars are connected together, we use prefixes (a word placed before another word) such as mono, di, tri, oligo, ... poly. Why is this important? Well, we will be talking about different types of sugars, and structure is one of the things that helps us differentiate them.

Now, let’s talk about energy. A calorie is a unit of energy. Different carbohydrates provide different amounts of energy. Per 1 gram of carbohydrate, we get 4 calories. (1) This is the energy that our bodies cannot live without!


The specific form of carbohydrates we will be focusing on today is sugars, more specifically, natural, added, and sugar substitutes.

Natural Sugars vs Added Sugars

Natural sugars can be naturally found in fruits and vegetables, nuts, and dairy products. Natural sugars include glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, galactose, and maltose. (3) These are all simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides and disaccharides).

Added Sugars

According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), added sugars are “sugars that are added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), syrups, naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component (e.g. fruit juice concentrates), and other caloric sweeteners.” (5)

Different names for added sugars:

  1. Table sugar
  2. Brown sugar
  3. Molasses
  4. Turbinado sugar
  5. Powdered sugar
  6. Confectioner’s sugar
  7. Invert sugar
  8. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  9. Honey
  10. Maple sugar
  11. Agave nectar
  12. Date sugar
  13. Brown rice syrup
  14. Coconut sugar
  15. Coconut palm sugar
  16. Nectars
  17. Dextrose
  18. Dextrin
  19. Malt sugar
  20. Fruit juice concentrate
  21. Maltodextrin
  22. Cane juice
  23. Can syrup
  24. Malt sugar
  25. Malt syrup
  26. Maltose**
  27. Maltol
  28. Raw sugar
  29. Sucrose**
  30. Glucose**
  31. Fructose**
  32. Lactose**
  33. Crystalline fructose
  34. Corn sweetener
  35. Barbados sugar
  36. Barley malt
  37. Beet sugar
  38. Caramel
  39. Carob syrup
  40. Castor sugar
  41. Demerara sugar
  42. Golden sugar
  43. Grape sugar
  44. Mannose
  45. Muscovado
  46. Panocha
  47. Refiner’s syrup
  48. Saccharose
  49. Sorghum syrup
  50. Treacle

** also occur naturally

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar substitutes are divided into 3 groups: sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and novel sweeteners. (4) Sugar alcohols are synthetic sweeteners that are frequently used in processed foods. They are known to cause bloating and gas. Artificial sweeteners are chemically-engineered sweeteners that do not contain nutrients. FDA labeled artificial sweeteners as food additives. Novel sweeteners are plant-derived sweeteners and are more similar to natural sugar sources. (4)

Different names of sugar substitutes:

  1. Acesulfame K
  2. Allulose (novel)
  3. Aspartame
  4. Monk fruit (novel)
  5. Stevia (novel)
  6. Neotame
  7. Saccharin
  8. Sucralose
  9. Alitame
  10. Advantame
  11. Erythritol
  12. Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  13. Hydrolysate
  14. Isomalt
  15. Lactitol
  16. Maltitol
  17. Mannitol
  18. Sorbitol
  19. Tagatose
  20. Trehalose
  21. Xylitol
  22. Glycerol
  23. Polydextrose
  24. Tagatose (novel)

The Best vs. The Worst

Now that we have gone over various different names for sugar and its substitutes, how do we know which one is the best? Well, for starters, know that everything should be consumed in moderation. Just because apples are considered healthy does not mean that we should eat them in excessive amounts. Overconsumption, no matter if the food we are eating is nutritious or not, can lead to weight gain and many chronic diseases.

However, in order for our body to function properly sugar is a NECESSITY. We need it to survive because it provides energy. (6) The question remains: are certain sugars healthier than others?

0 calories ≠ healthy

Although both natural and added sugars are processed the same way in our body, the foods that contain natural sugar also tend to contain certain nutrients and fiber. (6) Added sugars, on the other hand, do not provide any health-promoting nutrients. Many sugar substitutes have ZERO calories and they do not raise blood glucose levels, but the important thing to remember is that 0 calories ≠ healthy. Believe it or not, because of their potency, Splenda (600 times sweeter) and other artificial sweeteners can overstimulate sugar receptors and limit tolerance for food that is more complex; additionally, some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners can disrupt the balance and reduce the number of good bacteria (7, 8)

What about people struggling with diabetes? According to Harvard Health, it is preferred for people who suffer from diabetes to eat foods that are higher in fructose rather than glucose. This is because fructose does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels. (6)

Grocery Shopping Guide Tips

You are walking around your local grocery store and wondering what to buy and what to eat to fuel your body properly but also to avoid unnecessary sugar. What do you do?

  1. Avoid processed and refined foods as they are usually full of added sugars and artificial sweeteners (your favorite chips have sugar too!!!)
  2. Turn to natural sources of sugar, such as whole fruit (bananas, berries, oranges, apples, etc.) rather than buying energy drinks, juices, and sodas
  3. If you are going for low-calorie sweeteners, choose novel sweeteners as they are plant-derived and are generally regarded as safe, according to the FDA (4)
  4. Avoid buying dressings as they are full of sugar, sugar substitutes, and other harmful ingredients; instead, make them on your own!
  5. Know that it is okay to eat sweets once in a while; MODERATION is key!