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What Are Five Sources of Sugar?

By Christina Fitzgerald, MS, RD, LD/N

Would you ever consider sitting down and eating one 4-pound bag of sugar. let alone 17? According to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes that much sugar in one year -- 23 teaspoons of added sugars every day. Some of these sugars come from whole-food sources such as whole grains, fruits and milk, but most come from processed sources such as soda and sweets and can be disguised under a variety of names such as high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice sugar and fruit juice concentrate.

Fruits, Milk and Milk Products

Carbohydrates provide essential energy for everyday functions. Fruit and milk products contain sugars referred to as simple sugars. Fructose is found naturally in fruit, while lactose is found naturally in milk and milk products. Even though these sugars are considered simple sugars, consuming them brings the added nutrition of fiber, vitamins and minerals found in the fruit and milk that isn't supplied in processed forms of sugar.

Fruit Juice Concentrate

If you look at the ingredient list of a food product described as only containing "natural sugar," you'll often see fruit juice concentrate as an ingredient. This concentrate contains the same fructose found naturally in the fruit, but in a much more concentrated dose. To become concentrated, the natural fruit juice receives a heat treatment that evaporates the water, leaving only the sugary contents behind. The difficulty with concentrate is that it can provide substantial amounts of sugar and calories in a very small portion.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is a common sweetener in soda, granola bars, ketchup and cereal, to name just a few. HFCS is composed of 50 to 55 percent fructose and has been processed and combined with corn syrup to produce a cheap and easily dissolvable sweetener. While the research is controversial on how your body responds to HFCS compared to table sugar, some hypothesize that your body does not recognize HFCS as food, leaving you still hungry and wanting more food.

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is another disguised sugar source that has been popping up in foods throughout the grocery store. This syrup is derived by cooking rice with enzymes to break down the starchese, straining off the liquid and reducing it until the desired consistency is reached. The taste and texture is similar to honey, and while it is considered natural as it's only made from brown rice and little else, it is still a highly concentrated source of calories and sugar. However, because it is about half as sweet as sugar, it is a popular alternative for those who are watching their overall sugar intake.

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