Decoding Food Labels: Demystifying Sugar Content Measurements

Understanding food labels can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to deciphering sugar content measurements. With terms like “sugars” and “glucides” often appearing on the same label, it’s easy to get confused. However, with a little knowledge and guidance, you can become adept at reading these labels and making healthier food choices. This article aims to demystify sugar content measurements on food labels and provide clear, easy-to-understand explanations.

What are Sugars and Glucides?

Sugars and glucides are both types of carbohydrates. The term “sugars” on a food label typically refers to both naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit and milk) and added sugars. Glucides, on the other hand, is a term more commonly used in European countries to refer to all types of carbohydrates, including sugars, starches, and fibers.

Understanding Sugar Content on Food Labels

When looking at a food label, you’ll often see “Total Carbohydrates,” “Dietary Fiber,” “Sugars,” and sometimes “Added Sugars.” Here’s what each of these terms means:

  • Total Carbohydrates: This number includes all types of carbohydrates in the food, including sugars, complex carbohydrates (like starches), and dietary fiber.
  • Dietary Fiber: This is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. It’s subtracted from the total carbohydrates when calculating the food’s net carbs.
  • Sugars: This includes both naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. It’s part of the total carbohydrates.
  • Added Sugars: This is the amount of sugar that has been added to the food during processing. It’s also part of the total carbohydrates.

How to Interpret Sugar Content

When it comes to sugar content, less is generally better. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams) per day, and men limit their intake to no more than 9 teaspoons (or 36 grams) per day.

If a food label doesn’t specify “added sugars,” you can check the ingredients list for sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners. These are all forms of added sugars.


Decoding food labels can be a powerful tool in making healthier dietary choices. By understanding what terms like “sugars” and “glucides” mean, you can better control your sugar intake and make informed decisions about the foods you eat. Remember, when it comes to sugar, less is generally better. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, take a moment to read the food labels. Your body will thank you.