Reading food labels can be confusing as sweeteners go by a lot of different names. Here is a list of some of the most commonly-used sweeteners with descriptions.
• Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K) (Also called Sunett) – A a potassium salt containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. Long term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, nausea, emotional imbalances, and damage to the liver and kidneys. Acesulfame has been shown to produce breast tumors, lung tumors, and other types of tumors, leukemia, and chronic respiratory disease in rodents.
• Agave – Agave is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of the agave plant. This sweetener has more concentrated fructose than does high fructose corn syrup and has been shown to alter liver function, promote obesity, and increase insulin resistance for both diabetics and non-diabetics.
• Aspartame (Also called Nutrisweet, Equal, Sweet One, and Spoonful) – An artificial sweetener comprised of approximately 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methanol. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Reported side effects from the use of aspartame include abdominal pain, anxiety, arthritis, depression, headaches, fibromyalgia, memory loss, nausea, heart palpitations, irritable bowel syndrome, seizures, neurological disorders, vision problems, and weight gain. It has also been shown to damage bacteria in the gut.
• Barbados sugar (Also called muscovado sugar) – Barbados sugar is a strong tasting, brown, moist, and somewhat sticky cane sugar. It is made from the first stage of crystallization and is therefore minimally processed and retains some of the vitamins and minerals of the sugar cane. This sweetener is less processed than white sugar.
• Barley malt – Barley malt is a sweetener with a strong, distinctive flavor that is made from sprouted barley. Pure malt extract, which is relatively expensive, is often mixed with corn syrup, a less expensive product.
• Beet sugar – A white sugar derived from beets. This sweetener is highly refined and has no nutrient value. Many feel that beet sugar produces products with an inferior taste and texture compared to those made with cane sugar.
• Black-strap molasses – A type of molasses. Black-strap molasses is a thick, viscous, dark-colored syrup with a bittersweet flavor. It is a waste product from processing sugar cane or beet into table sugar.
• Brown rice syrup – Brown rice syrup is a thick, syrupy sweetener made by cooking brown rice flour or brown rice starch with enzymes. Some believe this syrup contributes to the development of candida more than any other sweetener.
• Brown sugar – Brown sugar is highly refined white sugar combined with varying amounts of molasses to yield golden, light, or dark brown sugar.
• Cane crystals/cane juice crystals – See evaporated cane juice.
• Coconut sugar – Coconut sugar is produced from the sap of coconut flower buds (not the coconut itself). The sap is boiled to reduce moisture content and then dehydrated.
Many are concerned about the sustainability of producing coconut sugar because coconut trees that are tapped for sap cannot also produce coconuts.
• Confectioner’s sugar (also called powdered sugar, icing sugar, or 10X sugar) – Confectioner’s sugar is a highly refined beet or cane sugar that has been mechanically ground to produce a super fine, powdery sugar.
• Corn syrup – Corn syrup is a thick, sweet syrup made by heating corn starch with an acid or by combining it with enzymes to break it down. It is a highly refined sweetener and has almost no nutritional value.
• Corn syrup solids (also called dried glucose syrup or glucose syrup solids) – Corn syrup that has been concentrated to contain less than 10% water.
• Crystalline fructose – Crystalline fructose is a sweetener produced by allowing the fructose to crystallize from fructose-enriched corn syrup.
• Crystallized cane juice– See evaporated cane juice.
• Date sugar – Date sugar is actually not a refined sugar at all, but simply ground dates. This natural sweetener is high in fiber and nutrients and is a much better option than refined sweeteners. Date sugar can be used in place of sugar in some recipes; however, it will not melt or dissolve in liquids as regular sugar does.
• Demerara sugar – Demerara sugar is a minimally processed cane sugar made by steaming the juice of pressed sugar cane to form a thick syrup. The syrup is then allowed to dehydrate resulting in large, golden to medium brown crystals that are slightly sticky and have a unique flavor and texture. This sweetener is less processed and lower in calories than white sugar.
• Dextrose – A highly refined crystalline glucose made from starch. Dextrose produced from cornstarch may be listed as “corn sugar”, that produced from rice may read as “rice sugar”, and that made from wheat may be listed as “wheat sugar”.
• Dried cane juice – See evaporated cane juice.
• Evaporated cane juice (also called dried cane juice, crystallized cane juice, and milled cane sugar) – Evaporated cane juice is a refined cane sugar made from sugarcane that retains some of the nutrients of the sugarcane.
Evaporated cane juice is available in a variety of forms and under different names. This sweetener is slightly less processed than white sugar.
• Fructose – A form of refined sugar. Table sugar (refined white sugar) is made up of equal amounts of the simple sugars glucose and fructose, which are joined together by chemical bonds.
• Fruitsource – Fruitsource is the brand name of a sweetener made from grape juice concentrated and rice syrup.
• Galactose – A refined sweetener found in a number of commercially prepared products.
• Glucose – A form of refined sugar. Table sugar (refined white sugar) is made up of equal amounts of the simple sugars glucose and fructose, which are joined together by chemical bonds.
• Granulated sugar (also called table sugar, white sugar, refined sugar, beet or cane sugar) – A highly refined white sugar made from beets or sugarcane.
• High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – A syrup made from corn that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose. Click here to read about how high-fructose corn syrup is made.
• Honey – Honey is a sweetener made by bees from plant nectar. Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. The color and flavor of the honey depends on the source of the nectar (clover, buckwheat, orange blossom, etc.). Infants under one year of age should not consume honey.
• Icing sugar – See confectioner’s sugar.
• Juice concentrate – A sweeter made by concentrating fruit juice. Juice concentrate retains a small amount of nutrients and is preferable to many other types of sweeteners when sweetening fruit-based dishes.
• Lactose – The sugar found naturally in dairy products. It is usually the main factor responsible for milk intolerance.
• Malt sugar – See maltose.
• Malt sweetener – See barley malt.
• Maltodextrins – A family of highly-refined sweeteners made from rice, corn, or potato starch.
• Maltose (also called malt sugar) – A sweetener made from malted grains.
• Mannitol – A sugar alcohol. Known to cause digestive problems in some individuals.
• Maple syrup – Pure maple syrup is a concentrated natural sweetener made by boiling down sap from the sugar maple tree. Do not confuse pure maple syrup with pancake syrup or maple flavored syrup, products that have high fructose corn syrup as the main ingredient.
• Milled cane sugar – See evaporated cane juice.
• Molasses (also called treacle) – Molasses is a thick, dark syrup that is a by-product of the production of beet sugar or cane sugar. Sorghum syrup is sometimes called molasses, but is a different product produced in a different way. See sorghum.
• Muscovado – See Barbados sugar.
• Panela (also called raspadura or rapadura) – Panela is a minimally processed sugar made by cooking the juice of pressed sugar cane.
• Powdered sugar – See confectioner’s sugar.
• Rapadura – Rapadura is a non-crystallized form of cane sugar made by extracting the juice of the sugar cane and then heating it until it forms a syrup. The syrup is then cooled until the sugar granules are formed. Rapadura has a grainy, rather than crystalline, texture and is very dark as it retains a few of the original nutrients.
Rapadura and sucanat are probably the least processed of all the sugars derived from sugar cane.
• Raw sugar – A cane sugar that is produced by evaporating the juice of pressed sugar cane and then separating the sugar crystals. Raw sugar is an umbrella term which includes any type of cane sugar that is minimally refined and retains some of the molasses coating on the crystals. A list of raw sugars includes (but is not exclusive to) sucanat, rapadura, panela, muscovado, turbinado, and demarara sugar.
• Refined sugar – See granulated sugar.
• Rice syrup – See brown rice syrup.
• Sorbitol – An alcohol sugar. Can cause digestion problems for some people.
• Sorghum syrup (also called sorghum molasses) – Sorghum molasses is a syrup made by crushing the stalks of the sorghum plant and then cooking the resulting syrup to concentrate it. Sorghum is a more healthful option than regular or blackstrap molasses.
• Sucrose (white sugar) – A highly refined sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets.
• Sucanat – Sucanat is a non-crystallized form of cane sugar made by extracting the juice of the sugar cane and then heating it until it forms a syrup. The syrup is then cooled until the sugar granules are formed. Sucanat has a grainy, rather than crystalline, texture and is very dark as it retains a few of the original nutrients.
Sucanat and rapadura are probably the least processed of all the sugars derived from sugar cane. The name “sucanat” is a contraction of the words, “sugar cane natural”.
• Treacle – See molasses.
• Turbinado sugar (also called turbinated sugar, raw sugar) – Turbinado sugar is a cane sugar with large, light brown crystals that is produced by crushing sugar cane and collecting the juice, which is then evaporated and spun in a centrifuge (or turbine). This sweetener is less processed than white sugar. The names turbinado sugar and demerara sugar are often used interchangeably.
• White sugar – See granulated sugar.
• Xylitol – Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Known to cause digestive problems in some individuals.
Americans eat far too much sugar, a contributor to obesity, diabetes, and many other health issues. But life can be just as sweet without sugar. I have many yummy recipes with no added sugar. Click here for all of my sugar-free recipes.