Published on December 2, 2021 by AliveCor India

What's Better: Sugar-Free, No Added Sugar, or Unsweetened

We are all aware that excessive sugar intake can take a harmful toll on our health. However, in recent times limiting your sugar intake is getting difficult each day now. Almost most of the food you consume contains some amount of sugar.

High sugar consumption causes serious health ailments. The extra insulin in your bloodstream from high sugar damages your arteries. Over time, it can damage your heart by inflaming the walls of your arteries and making them thicker and stiffer. It leads to heart disease like heart failure, heart attacks and strokes.

Having learned of the dangers of sugar, people seek alternatives like food items labeled as ‘no added sugar’, ‘sugar-free’, or ‘unsweetened sugar’.

Food packages with such labels portray themselves as a healthier alternative but how much of it is right?

Are these products free of sugar? Should you not worry about your sugar intake anymore? The answer is quite complicated.

What do these terms mean?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controls health and nutrient content on food and drink packaging. In 2016, the FDA listed both nutritional facts labels, “Total Sugars” and “Added Sugars”.

Earlier, it was difficult to tell how much was naturally occurring sugar vs added sugar. This step made it difficult for people who made health choices based on the label information.

Food and drink companies haven't updated their labels on every package yet. Most companies have adopted the new label since 2020, but some are still in process.

The new label predicts to improve people's ability to make healthier choices and also reveal how much sugar is added by the food industry. Nutritional facts labels and ingredient lists on food items is the right way to learn about how much sugar is added for you to eat.

However, there are other types of sugar content claims like “no added sugar”, unsweetened and more in front of the package. These terms are also helpful but only if you understand what these really mean.

Different between Sugar-Free, No Added Sugar, and Unsweetened


Sugar-free is an FDA-regulated branded phrase. According to the FDA, a product or drink can be called “sugar-free” (sugarless, no sugar, free of sugar, zero sugar, or insignificant origin of sugar) if these derivatives have less than half a gram of sugar per serving.

Honey, coconut sugar, as well as naturally occurring sugars found in foods such as fruits or milk, are examples of sugars that contain sugars from added sugars.

No Sugar Added

The FDA allows a product label to say “no added sugar” provided it “includes no sugars added during processing or packaging, containing sugar-rich components such juice or dried fruits.” In other words, they can live with this claim as long as sugar isn't added to the food manually. Because natural sugars, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols may be present, this label differs from sugar-free. Granola, peanut butter, fruit juice, and fruit preserves are all included in this category.


Unsweetened denotes the absence of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols in derivatives such as almond milk, coconut milk, apple sauce, iced tea, and so on. So, if you like sugar or want to cut down on the amount of sugar in your diet, this is the best option.

Always keep in mind how many calories or carbohydrates you're consuming when using sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners. Consume them in moderation and stick to a balanced eating plan.

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