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8 Sneaky Sugars to Watch Out For in Your Child's Food

When it comes to sugars in our food, we often think of the obvious culprits like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. However, there are hidden sugars lurking in many processed foods that are harder to spot on labels. These sugars are derived from glucose, the body's main source of energy, and can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. In this health blog, we'll uncover eight sneaky sugars that you may encounter in everyday food products.

Corn Syrup:

Different from high-fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose. It is derived from corn starch and used as a concentrated glucose solution in various processed foods. Light corn syrup may contain additional flavorings like vanilla, while dark corn syrups may have added molasses.


Dextrose is simply another name for glucose and is chemically identical to it. Often produced from corn, it is used as a sweetener in a wide range of products, from cereals to granola bars and sports drinks like Gatorade. Its presence can be deceptive as it may not sound like typical sugar, leading consumers to overlook its sweetness.


Maltodextrin is a partially broken-down starch composed of three to seventeen glucose molecules linked together in a chain. Though it blurs the line between sugar and starch, it is considered a sugar due to its easy digestibility and quick release of glucose in the body. You can find maltodextrin in infant formulas, instant puddings, sauces, dressings, and seasonings.

Rice Syrup and Brown Rice Syrup:

Rice syrups are made by cooking rice, breaking down the starch into sugars (mainly maltose, maltotriose, and glucose), and reducing the liquid to a syrup. They are commonly used in energy bars, cereals, and even infant formula to provide a quick source of glucose for an energy boost.

Barley Malt Syrup or Extract:

Barley malt syrup resembles molasses in thickness and flavor but is only about half as sweet as table sugar. It is commonly used as a sweetener in various processed foods. Its name may not immediately convey its sugar content, leading consumers to overlook its presence.


Similar to maltodextrin, dextrin is technically a starch, consisting of more than twenty glucose molecules joined together. However, it is rapidly broken down into glucose during digestion, behaving more like a sugar. Dextrin is commonly used as a thickener in various food products.

Trehalose (Mycose or Tremalose):

Trehalose is structurally similar to maltose but with a different arrangement of glucose molecules, making it more stable at high temperatures. Often used in frozen foods and ice cream to lower the freezing point and improve texture, trehalose can have unintended health consequences. Studies suggest that certain strains of the bacteria Clostridium difficile can thrive on trehalose, potentially causing gastrointestinal distress.

Maltose or Malt Sugar:

Maltose consists of two glucose molecules connected together and is naturally found in fermented cereal grains and some fruits and vegetables. It is about half as sweet as regular table sugar (sucrose) and is commonly used as a sweetener in bread, cereal products, hard candies, and frozen desserts. Similar to maltose, maltotriose contains three glucose molecules joined together.

Being mindful of hidden sugars is crucial for maintaining a healthy diet and stable blood sugar levels. While glucose is essential for our body's energy needs, it's best to obtain it from whole grains and complex carbohydrates. By becoming familiar with the various names for glucose-based sugars, such as dextrose, maltose, and maltodextrin, we can make informed choices about the foods we consume and take control of our overall health. Always remember to read food labels carefully and opt for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible to minimize hidden sugar intake.

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