What Are The Sweeteners In Our Food

A brief article about the kinds of natural and artificial sweeteners used in food and drink products.

There are many types of sweeteners used in our food products. Sweet foods can be a part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. There has been no real evidence that sugars cause hyperactivity in children or type II diabetes. There are so many choices now for sweeteners that it can be confusing. All sugars are carbohydrates and contain four calories per gram. Sweetness can come from sucrose, glucose and fructose. It can also come from honey and corn syrup.

Sucrose is more easily known as table sugar. It comes from the evaporation of moisture from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets. Purification is part of the refining process to remove any impurities, making the sugar white. Other forms of sucrose are raw sugar, brown sugar, confectioner's sugar and granulated sugar. Regular sugar is the most commonly used version. Most recipes call for white sugar. A type of sugar called Bakers Special was developed for the baking industry. It is finer than regular sugar. Confectioners or powdered sugar is formed by grinding sugar to a smooth powder. While it is being sifted, about 3 percent of cornstarch is mixed in to prevent caking.

The naturally occurring sugar in fruit is called fructose or levulose. It is made into two forms. One is a crystalline version make from cornstarch. The other is a combination of fructose and glucose. It is called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Because of its syrup form, it is fairly cheap and easy to use. It makes up more than 40 percent of all caloric sweeteners that are used in drinks and food. Some scientists are raising alarms about HFCS because it does not stimulate insulin as much as regular sugar. Insulin triggers a hormone called leptin that tells the body it is full. Therefore, you may eat or drink more of products containing HFCS.


Sugar that is only partially refined is called brown sugar. It retains some of the molasses syrup and parts of sugarcane giving it a great flavor. Light brown sugars are used more in baking and making glazes. Dark brown sugars are good in gingerbread, beans and other foods. It contains more moisture than white sugar and tends to clump.

There are low and no calorie sweeteners. There are currently six low-calorie sweeteners approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. They are acesulfame potassium, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and tagatose. Aspartame is sometimes called by its commercial names of NutraSweet and Equal. Because it is 180 to 220 times sweeter than sugar, less can be used in foods and drinks, lowering the number of calories overall.Acesulfame potassium or Ace-K was approved in 2003. Its commercial names are Sunett and Sweet One. Because it is heat stable and improves the taste of foods with no calories, it is used in cooking and baking. Saccharin was the first approved artificial sweetener and contains no calories.

Sucralose is the only low-calorie sweetener that comes from sugar. It has been approved for use on the tabletop, in food and drinks and in cooking and baking. It is actually 600 times sweeter than sugar. Its commercial name is Splenda.

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