Sugars and Sweeteners

The Ultimate Guide To Sugars & Sweeteners

Modern supermarkets and natural food stores stock numerous types of sugars and sweeteners – some familiar, others new. Not only is the variety rather daunting, the conflicting information and opinions about sugars and health don’t help. The Ultimate Guide to Sugars & Sweeteners (The Experiment Publishing, New York) includes alphabetical entries on over 100 nutritive and non-nutritive sugars and sweeteners covering nutrition and health facts, history and production, substitution tips, and information on how various sweeteners perform in cooking and baking as well as fun trivia notes and myth-busting Q&As.

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Sugars & Sweeteners Nutrition Facts

We set up the sugars and sweeteners website to provide the most accurate, evidence-based information on sugars and sweeteners currently available. We will be updating it regularly with summaries of studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in Research Update and with information on specific sugars and sweeteners in The Taste of Sweet.

In this section we provide the Nutrition Facts on:

Nutritive Sweeteners

Nutritive doesn’t mean these sweeteners are nourishing in the good-for-you sense. It means they provide you with (per level teaspoon) 4.2 grams carbohydrate (usually rounded down to 4, but occasionally up to 5) and 17 calories (67 kilojoules). Regular sugar (sucrose) is a nutritive sweetener, as are agave syrup (fructose), rice syrup (a malted grain sweetener), sorbitol (a polyol, or sugar alcohol), and maltodextrin (a slightly sweet modified food starch).

Are some “healthier” than others? Well, some do deliver a smidgen more nutrition than just calories – raw sugar, quality honey and pure maple syrup for example also provide very small amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. But healthier? No. They still have those calories so you still have to keep your intake moderate. Check out how the calories add up (all measurements are rounded).

A spoonful of sugar... Calories Kilojoules Grams carbohydrate
1 level teaspoon sugar (5ml) 16 67 4
1 rounded or heaped teaspoon sugar = 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5ml) 24 100 6
1 level tablespoon sugar (15ml) 48 201 12
1 rounded or heaped tablespoon sugar = 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5ml) 72 268 18
1 level Australian tablespoon sugar (20ml) 64 302 16
1 rounded or heaped Australian tablespoon sugar (20ml) = 1 1/2 Australian tablespoons (30ml) 96 403 24

One of the key differences is their effect on blood glucose levels (measured by their glycemic index value or GI).

Agave syrup

Also called: agave nectar

Sugars: Fructose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 30-40% sweeter

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 21 Calories: 63
Kilojoules: 88 Kilojoules: 264
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 19-28 Glycemic Index: 19-28
Glycemic Load: 1 Glycemic Load: 3

Barley malt

Also called: barley malt extract, barley malt syrup, barley syrup, malt extract, malt syrup

Sugars: Maltose, maltotriose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About half as sweet

Health: May contain gluten

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 98 Glycemic Index: 98
Glycemic Load: 2 Glycemic Load: 6

Birch syrup

Sugars: Fructose, glucose, sucrose, galactose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Health: contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Black sugar

Also called: Japanese black sugar, kokuto, Okinawan black sugar/brown sugar

Sugars: Sucrose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 65 Glycemic Index: 65
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

Brown sugar

Also called: light brown sugar, golden brown sugar, golden yellow sugar, soft brown sugar

Sugars: sucrose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 65 Glycemic Index: 65
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

Cane sugar

Sugars: Maltose, maltotriose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 65 Glycemic Index: 65
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

Coconut sugar

Also called: Coconut palm sugar, coco sap sugar, coco sugar

Sugars: Sucrose, glucose, frucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 54 Glycemic Index: 54
Glycemic Load: 2 Glycemic Load: 7

Corn syrup

Sugars: Maltose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 40% as sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 90 Glycemic Index: 90
Glycemic Load: 4 Glycemic Load: 12

Date sugar

Sugars: Glucose, fructose, sucrose

Date sugar is powdered dried dates; the glycemic index has been estimated on the GI values of dates

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About half as sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 11 Calories: 33
Kilojoules: 46 Kilojoules: 138
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 39-45 Glycemic Index: 39-45
Glycemic Load: 2 Glycemic Load: 5-6

Fructose

Also called: Fruit sugar

Sugars: Fructose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 70% sweeter

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 10 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 42 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 19 Glycemic Index: 19
Glycemic Load: 1 Glycemic Load: 2.5

Glucose

Also called: Dextrose

Sugars: Glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 70% as sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 100 Glycemic Index: 100
Glycemic Load: 4 Glycemic Load: 13

Golden syrup

Sugars: Glucose, fructose, sucrose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 25% sweeter

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 63 Glycemic Index: 63
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

High fructose corn syrup

Also called: HFCS

Sugars: Fructose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): HFCS-55 is about 160% sweeter

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): HFCS-42 is about 120% sweeter

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: HFCS-55: 56 HFCS-42: 66 Glycemic Index: HFCS-55: 56 HFCS-42: 66
Glycemic Load: HFCS-55: 2 HFCS-42: 3 Glycemic Load: HFCS-55: 7 HFCS-42: 9

Honey

Sugars: Fructose, glucose, sucrose, plus small amounts maltose, trehalose, turanose (varies depending on the nectar source)

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet to about 50% sweeter

Health: Avoid giving to babies under 12 months; contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 22 Calories: 66
Kilojoules: 94 Kilojoules: 282
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 32-87 Glycemic Index: 32-87
Glycemic Load: 1-3 Glycemic Load: 4-11

Jaggery

Also called: Gur

Sugars: Sucrose, glucose, fructose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Maple syrup

Also called: Pure maple syrup, 100% maple syrup

Sugars: Sucrose, glucose, fructose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 14 Calories: 42
Kilojoules: 61 Kilojoules: 183
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 54 Glycemic Index: 54
Glycemic Load: 2 Glycemic Load: 7

Molasses

Also called: Treacle

Sugars: Sucrose, fructose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 25-50% less sweet depending on the grade

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 68 Glycemic Index: 68
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 9

Palm sugar

Sugars: Sucrose, glucose, fructose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Rice syrup

Also called: Brown rice syrup, rice malt syrup

Sugars: Maltose, maltotriose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 70% as sweet

Health: May contain gluten

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 98 Glycemic Index: 98
Glycemic Load: 4 Glycemic Load: 13

Rock sugar

Also called: Chinese rock sugar

Sugars: Sucrose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

It is typically sold in "lumps". There are about 60 calories (250 kilojoules) per lump (Heaven Dragon brand)

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 65 Glycemic Index: 65
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

Sucanat

Sugars: Sucrose, glucose, frucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Sugar, regular

Also called: Granulated sugar, table sugar, white sugar

Sugars: Sucrose

The sweetness levels of all sugars and sweeteners are compared with the sweetness of sucrose (regular sugar) which is assigned a value of 100

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 65 Glycemic Index: 65
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 8

Treacle

Also called: Molasses

Sugars: Sucrose, fructose, glucose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 25-50% less sweet depending on the grade

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: 68 Glycemic Index: 68
Glycemic Load: 3 Glycemic Load: 9

Wheat syrup

Sugars: Glucose, fructose

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 30% as sweet depending on the grade

Health: May contain gluten

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 16 Calories: 48
Kilojoules: 67 Kilojoules: 201
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Yacon syrup

Sugars: Fructose, glucose, sucrose (also contains fructooligosaccharides)

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 50-75% as sweet depending on the grade

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 17 Calories: 51
Kilojoules: 72 Kilojoules: 216
Grams carbohydrate: 4 Grams carbohydrate: 13
Glycemic Index: Not tested Glycemic Index: Not tested
Glycemic Load: Not available Glycemic Load: Not available

Polyols (Sugar alcohols)

Polyols (sugar alcohols), such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol, are nutritive sweeteners, too. They are generally not as sweet as sugars, provide fewer calories, and have less impact on blood glucose levels and do not promote tooth decay. However, most have a laxative effect and may cause gas and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.



ADI – Acceptable Daily Intake

EFSA – European Food Safety Authority

E numbers – European Food Safety Authority numbers

FDA – Food and Drug Administration (United States)

GRAS – Generally Recognized As Safe

JECFA – Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives

LTV – Laxative threshold Value

Erythitol

EFSA number: E968

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 70% as sweet

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 0.6 Calories: 2
Kilojoules: 2.5 Kilojoules: 6
Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0
Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0
FDA approval: GRAS FDA approval: GRAS
ADI: Not specified ADI: Not specified
LTV: Not specified LTV: Not specified

Maltilol

EFSA number: E965

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 75-90% as sweet

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 2.4 Calories: 7
Kilojoules: 10 Kilojoules: 30
Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0
Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0
FDA approval: GRAS FDA approval: GRAS
ADI: Not specified ADI: Not specified
LTV: 60 grams per meal LTV: 60 grams per meal

Mannitol

EFSA number: E421

Polyol (sugar alcohol): Mannitol

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 70% as sweet

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 2.2 Calories: 7
Kilojoules: 7 Kilojoules: 21
Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0
Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0
FDA approval: Yes FDA approval: Yes
ADI: Not specified ADI: Not specified
LTV: 10-20 grams per meal (JEFCA) LTV: 10-20 grams per meal (JEFCA)

Sorbitol

EFSA number: E420

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): About 60% as sweet

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 2.6 Calories: 8
Kilojoules: 11 Kilojoules: 33
Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0
Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0
FDA approval: GRAS FDA approval: GRAS
ADI: Not specified ADI: Not specified
LTV: 23 grams per meal (JEFCA) LTV: 23 grams per meal (JEFCA)

Xylitol

EFSA number: E967

Sweetness relative to regular sugar (sucrose): Equally sweet

Health: Contains FODMAPS

Serving 1 level (5ml) teaspoon Serving 1 level (15ml) tablespoon
Calories: 2.4 Calories: 8
Kilojoules: 10 Kilojoules: 30
Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Index (Estimated): 0
Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0 Glycemic Load (Estimated): 0
FDA approval: GRAS FDA approval: GRAS
ADI: Not specified ADI: Not specified
LTV: 20 grams per meal (JEFCA) LTV: 20 grams per meal (JEFCA)

Nonnutritive sweeteners

Polyols (sugar alcohols), such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol, are nutritive sweeteners, too. They are generally not as sweet as sugars, provide fewer calories, and have less impact on blood glucose levels and do not promote tooth decay. However, most have a laxative effect and may cause gas and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.

Nonnutritive sweeteners provide few (if any) calories (kilojoules), carbohydrates, or any other nutrient. The category includes both artificial sweeteners that have been created in a laboratory (e.g., aspartame) and plant-based sweeteners whose active ingredient has been extracted from a leaf (e.g., stevia) or a fruit (e.g., monk fruit). Typically they are all high-intensity sweeteners—tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times sweeter than sucrose—so only a minute amount is needed to sweeten. Even sweeteners that do provide calories can be included under the “nonnutritive” category if they are used in such small amounts that they contribute essentially no calories to the final product.

So that you can use the tabletop (pourable) versions in a similar way to regular sugar (e.g., by the teaspoon), the manufacturer usually adds a bulking agent such as maltodextrin or a polyol (sugar alcohol; e.g., erythritol).

Nonnutritive sweeteners have virtually no effect on blood glucose levels and can help you cut back on your calories if you use them to replace the equivalent sweetness of nutritive sweeteners such as white sugar or honey. Their major drawback is that they aren’t as versatile, because they tend not to be heat stable, they don’t brown or caramelize, and they don’t add texture or bulk to food when used in baking. They also tend to be much more expensive, gram for gram, than their nutritive counterparts.

What about safety? Despite rigorous approval processes, controversy continues to swirl around nonnutritive sweeteners. If you have concerns, we suggest you visit the responsible government websites such as the FDA and FSANZ, which are not only responsible for the rigorous approval process but continue to closely monitor and review new evidence about these additives on an ongoing basis.

There is strong evidence that, for most people, nonnutritive sweeteners are safe when consumed in the amounts permitted by government regulators. However, this doesn’t mean that some sensitive people won’t have adverse reactions to some of the nonnutritive sweeteners in foods.

If you think you may have irritable bowel syndrome or a food intolerance, look before you leap: see a registered dietitian (one who qualifies for the credential RD or RDN or, in Australia, APD) for further advice on the best alternative sweeteners.



ADI – Acceptable Daily Intake

EFSA – European Food Safety Authority

E numbers – European Food Safety Authority numbers

FDA – Food and Drug Administration (United States)

GRAS – Generally Recognized As Safe

JECFA – Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives