The Difference Between “No Added Sugar” & “Sugar Free” on Packaging

Hmm… no added sugar vs sugar free. These are two terms most consider interchangeable. Both seem to imply that the sugar content is non-existent, so surely either/or is fine for you to consume.

Wrong.

brunch

‘Added’ means “to join to something else” which, in this case, means added to pre-existing sugars. Therefore, if no sugar or sugar-containing products are added during processing, then a product can be labelled as “no added sugar” but certainly not “sugar free”.

See the difference?

Ice-cream, for instance, is frequently added as “no added sugar” but contain lactose, a natural milk sugar, so cannot claim to be “sugar free”.

Naturally-occurring sugars are not necessarily harmful, but in large quantities can be difficult for the body to break down and, unfortunately, are treated the same in the body as table sugar.

“Sugar free” foods are not always completely free of sugar. As confusing as it sounds, a food can have up to 0.5g of sugar per serving for it to still be labelled “sugar free”. Although insignificant in small quantities, if you eat multiple portions of sugar-free foods you might be unwittingly be adding sugar to your diet without noticing.

Artificial sweeteners, as they are not considered sugar, are not taken into account when sugar-free and low-sugar labels are added. Although artificial sweeteners are not treated the same in the body as table sugar, they can actually raise your blood sugar levels more than sugar and disrupt the macrobiotic environment in your gut. Common artificial sweeteners you should watch out for include aspartame, saccharin and sucralose.


When trying to find a healthy food which is wholesome and free of processed sugars, the ingredients list is your best friend. Ignore whatever it says on the front; “no added sugar” is basic marketing garbage and “sugar-free” tends to mean “high in artificial sweeteners” so it pays to be wary. Read the ingredients, keep an eye out for chemicals and pay attention to the top three ingredients in particular.

For those with a sweet tooth, naturally saccharine foods such as oranges and bananas are recommended over “sugar free” sweets, syrups and other deceptive treats.

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