What’s the deal with sugar? Part 2 What’s the deal with sugar? Part 2

In What’s the deal with sugar? Part 1, we learned the recommended maximums for sugar intake, blood sugar definitions, what can happen if you eat too much sugar, and you had the opportunity to be an added sugar expert!

In Part 2, we’ll be clearing up the confusion around the many different names for sugar and answering the question, which sugar is best for me?

Where does sugar come from?

Before we look at the different types of sugar, let’s see where sugar comes from. When we say sugar, what we mean is sucrose. Sucrose is found in the stems of sugarcane and in the roots of the sugar beet plant. To extract sugar from sugar beets, the beets are sliced and soaked in hot water to separate the sugar from the rest of the plant. The hot liquid, now molasses, is then filtered, concentrated, and rapidly spun in a turbine until the molasses is flung off and solid sugar crystals remain. To extract sugar from sugar cane, the stalks are shredded and squeezed to release its natural juice, which is boiled until it thickens and sugar crystals begin to form. Again, the crystals are rapidly spun to remove molasses, leaving just the sugar crystals behind.[1]

Sugar’s Many Different Names

Now that we have a background on where sugar comes from, let’s go over sugar’s many different names. Keep in mind that some foods can contain multiple forms of sugar at once!

nut labels

Let’s test what your new sugar knowledge!

Now that you know more about the differences between types of sugar, try to apply what you’ve learned to these two activities.

Recognizing types of sugar:

What kind of sugars might this apple contain?


What about this bowl of cereal?


Reading ingredient labels:

See if you can spot the different forms of sugar in this energy bar’s ingredients list!

Ingredient list


Answers for Recognizing types of sugar:
(Fructose, a natural sugar); (Lactose in the milk, a natural sugar; sucrose in the sweetened cereal, an added sugar)
Answers for Reading ingredient labels:
(Organic cane syrup, organic invert sugar, organic glucose syrup, organic brown rice syrup. BONUS: Additional sweetening is also provided in the form of some concentrated fruit products containing natural sugars: concentrated apple puree, organic date paste, apple juice concentrate.)

There Isn’t Really a “Healthiest” Sugar

To be clear, sugar is not a healthy choice and should be enjoyed in moderation. There are certain types of sugar that are smarter options than others though. The “best” sugar to choose is sugar contained naturally in foods that are also rich in nutrients and fiber, such as whole fruits and root vegetables like beets and carrots. Calorie wise, using non-caloric sweeteners in place of caloric sweeteners can help reduce the amount of calories you eat a day, though experts do not agree on whether their use leads to weight loss[15]. If you’re going to consume added sugars, whether from the sugar shaker or in processed foods, follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation of limiting your added sugars to 36 g a day for men and 24 g for women, or 9 and 6 teaspoons, respectively. Keep in mind that eating too much added sugar can increase your risk for weight gain and health issues like high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.


Written by Taylor Newman, PhD/DI student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD

Posted December 4th, 2016

Strawberries and sugar original photo source
Bowl of cereal original photo source
Apple original photo source

[1] Sugar.org
[2] MyPlate
[3] USDA
[5] Medline
[6] UK GOV
[7] WHO
[10] Maple
[11] Know Sugar
[12] Sugar Types
[13] NYTimes
[15] NCBI


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