Sugar-Free vs. No Added Sugar: What’s the Difference?

Do sugar-conscious shoppers truly know the difference between the two claims?

We’re all familiar with the terms: “sugar-free” and “no added sugar.” But do sugar-conscious shoppers truly know the difference between the two claims?

Apparently not.

Time and time again, we hear from our customers that when it comes to sugar content claims on a package, making sense of the terminology can be confusing— and at times, even downright impossible.

So, what do the sugar content claims sugar-free and no added sugar really mean?

Nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient— i.e. sugar— in the product using terms such as “free” and “low.” Seemingly, nutrient content claims can also compare the level of a nutrient in a product to that of another product using terms such as “reduced” and “less.”

Let’s help you understand it a little bit better.

When a nutrient content claims sugar-free, what it really means is that one serving of said product contains less than 0.5 grams of sugars, both natural and added. Pro tip:  Always note the actual number of servings in the food because there may still be a small amount of sugar, even with a sugar-free claim.  Common sources of the sugar-free claim on food labels include chewing gum, pancake syrup, candy, and more.

As for decoding no added sugar, what that really means is no sugar or ingredient containing sugar was added during processing or packaging. Since naturally occurring sugars, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols may still be present, this term is not the same as sugar-free. Foods such as granola, peanut butter, fruit juice, and more are common sources of this claim.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because a product has a sugar content claim doesn’t mean it’s good for you. For example, a sugary vegan cupcake can claim it has reduced sugar, but the real question would be: reduced from what?

Bottom line: If you eat a lot of sweets or drink sugary beverages regularly, finding replacement products with less sugar can be a good way to start cutting back and improving your health. You can always add a bit of natural sweetener with a few of our Health Garden favorites, including our Agave Powder Sweetener and Monk Fruit Cubes.

Trust us, over time, you won’t even miss sugar, no matter how loudly it calls you from the grocery shelves!

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