What does “No Added Sugar” actually mean?

Nowadays, there is a huge range of foods that claim to have “no added sugar”, but what does this actually mean? Does this mean they contain no carbohydrate if any kind and therefor won’t affect our blood glucose levels?

In Australia, nutrient claims like “No Added Sugar” and other food labelling laws are regulated by the Food Standards Code. Nutrient claims can be a little confusing, making it hard to tell which products are healthy and which aren’t. Products that have “No Added Sugar” may still contain other ingredients that contain carbohydrates. All carbohydrates break down to sugar (glucose) when digested, naturally causing blood glucose levels to rise.

Here are some of the names to look out for as “added sugars” on labels:

  • hexose monosaccharides and disaccharides, including dextrose, fructose, sucrose and lactose
  • starch hydrolysate
  • glucose syrups, maltodextrin and similar products
  • products derived at a sugar refinery, including brown sugar and molasses
  • icing sugar
  • invert sugar
  • fruit sugar syrup
  • honey
  • malt, or malt extracts
  • concentrated fruit juice (Unless the product is a beverage, in which case concentrated fruit juice isn’t considered an “added sugar”)

Whilst some of these ingredients may be considered more natural, they still break down to sugar during digestion. Thy also offer few nutrients and provide the same amount of energy, or kilojoules, as table sugar! As with anything, it’s always important to watch your portion size!

Ideally, fresh minimally processed wholefoods take preference over packaged foods.  Look for foods high in fibre and packed full of nutrition regardless of if they have the ‘no added sugar’ claim. If you are choosing a processed snack and it does have the ‘no added sugar’ claim make sure you double-check the ingredient list and most importantly, the nutrition information panel to see how much carbohydrate it contains.

Diabetes NSW & ACT offers FREE short courses, written information and over-the-phone advice from dietitians and other health professionals. Should you want more information on label reading or wish to attend a Shop Smart course please visit the Diabetes NSW & ACT website or call the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588. Alternatively you download the NDSS Fact Sheet on label reading here.

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