Reading Food Labels

Do You Know Which Foods Contain High Levels of Sucrose?

Most people do not know which foods contain high levels of sucrose, because this information is not readily available. Understanding sucrose levels is important for someone with Sucrose Intolerance due to Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID).

Food labels list the total amount of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and sugars in a product; but the starch content and specific type of sugar usually are not listed on the food label, making shopping difficult and frustrating for individuals with Sucrose Intolerance. However, all ingredients are listed on the ingredient label, and people with Sucrose Intolerance must learn to become food and ingredient label detectives.

Detecting Sucrose – What Are the Names of Different Types of Sugars?

The exact quantity of sucrose cannot be ascertained from a food label, but the type of sugar can be determined based on the list of ingredients. The types of sugar include lactose (milk sugar), fructose (fruit sugar; fruits also contain varying amounts of sucrose), glucose, maltose (broken down from starch), and galactose (broken down from lactose). People with Sucrose Intolerance should look for ingredients such as sugar, cane juice, cane syrup, brown sugar, and powdered sugar, which contain sucrose and may cause gastrointestinal symptoms. People with Sucrose Intolerance typically can tolerate fructose and high fructose corn syrup.

detecting sucrose - reading food labels

When looking at an ingredient list, remember that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means ingredients listed first are present in larger amounts than ingredients listed last.

What Is a Nutrient Database?

Food and diet apps are increasing in popularity as more and more people use them as a source of nutritional information. Most apps can provide basic information such as calories, fat, or calcium content in foods. Unfortunately, there is no good app that provides complete data on dietary sucrose and starch content. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is the major source of food composition data in the United States. The database contains over 8,000 food items and provides data on many of these nutrients. While the data for sucrose and starch is not complete, the USDA continues to update and improve the database. The public is free to use and search this database at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/.

It is important to keep in mind that dietary calculations are not an exact science, and nutritional data for foods are a best estimate. Many factors play a role in food analyses, including where the food is grown, how mature it is when harvested, if it is eaten cooked or raw, along with many other variables that affect the nutritional makeup of a given food. While these data are an excellent resource, an individual’s ability to tolerate particular foods varies. Therefore, much diet planning is based on a process of trial and error, which can be frustrating for many individuals dealing with the discomfort of Sucrose Intolerance. Working with healthcare professionals, dietitians, and other families who already follow a sucrose- and starch-modified diet can be helpful.

Sucrose Intolerance Is More Common Than You Think