How much do you know about the type of sugars?

How much do you know about the type of sugars?

How much do you know about the type of sugars? There are so many different types of sugars and it’s very very confusing. Let’s understand the type of sugars.

How much do you know about the type of sugars?

How much do you know about type of sugars

There is various type of sugars. How much do you know about the type of sugars? Natural sugars, refined sugars… All confusing! The more you know, the better approach you can make to sugars. Be knowledgeable so that you can enjoy sugar while staying healthy.

I’ll break them down into big categories to understand sugars in general. I’ll break down more on other blog posts later since it’s a lot to cover. This is a very general guide of sugars.


Sugars are a broad category of all monosaccharides and disaccharides: the simplest carbohydrates, having 4 calories per gram, and a high glycemic index.

  • Monosaccharides (Glucose, fructose, galactose)
  • Disaccharidesmonosaccharides (Sucrose, lactose, maltose, trehalos)
  • Polysaccharides

Types of Sugars: By Nutritionist

There are so many types of sugars, which scientists classify according to their chemical structure. When nutritionists talk about sugars, they usually classify them as 2 types:

1. Natural sugars

The naturally occurring forms of carbohydrate in whole foods – fruit, vegetables (fructose), and dairy foods (lactose) that contain beneficial nutrients to your body. Fructose and lactose are safe.

2. Modified sugars

Modified sugars are typically produced by converting starch using enzymes – artificially. They are mostly mixtures of glucose and fructose with some sucrose.

The refined crystals and syrups are added to enhance functions to food: sweetening and flavor enhancement, adding texture and structure, controlling crystallization, growing yeast in baked goods, and preventing spoilage.

This is the type of sugar that you need to avoid/reduce because it only offers harmful health benefits. They are low in nutrients, tend to have a high glycemic index, and can be harmful to teeth.


  • Sugar (ex. white, raw or brown sugar, icing sugar): it contains sucrose. It’s refined from cane sugar or sugar beet.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Maple syrup
  • Refiners syrup
  • Golden syrup
  • Inverted sugar
  • Caramel

Foods with modified sugar:

  • Processed foods
  • Cordials
  • Soft drinks
  • Energy drinks

Types of sweeteners

Non-caloric and caloric sweeteners that are not actually sugar (sucrose is the only one to be called “sugar”). They enhance the sweetness and flavor and/or texture of food and can be added to food and beverages.

Sweeteners are divided into 2 groups:
1) Nutritive sweeteners have calories and provide nourishment
2) Non-nutritive sweeteners are very low or calorie-free

1) Nutritive sweeteners (caloric sweeteners/sugars)

  • Sweeteners contain calories
  • Sweeteners provide energy in the form of carbohydrates
  • Some sugars are found naturally in foods like fructose. Eating fruits provide you not only fructose, but also fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that you don’t get from sugar alone. However, many sugars come from “added sugars” like sucrose and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup): sugars added to food prior/during the food processing for enhancing flavors or texture and increasing shelflife.
  • Sweeteners impact blood glucose levels
  • Sweeteners may promote cavities
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or syrup has about 15 grams of carbohydrate. 1 teaspoon has about 4 grams of carbohydrate. Every gram of carbohydrate has about 4 calories.
  • Most nutritive sweeteners used as replacements for sugar have just as many calories as sugar.

Brown Sugar
Cane Sugar Powdered Sugar Raw Sugar
Table Sugar
White Sugar Molasses
Corn Syrup
Maple Syrup Agave Nectar 
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates (HSH) 
Nutritive sweeteners

Natural caloric sweeteners

These are the oldest known sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. The type of sugars contains some other nutrition value (very small though). They tend to have a lower glycemic index than sugar. You still need to take it with moderation. They can be harmful to teeth.


Honey offers various benefits (so long as it is in its raw unpasteurized, unfiltered form): antioxidants like polyphenols (lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol), bee pollen (boosting immunity), and healing wound and burn. The manuka honey is the most nutritious honey. However, just because it’s natural, overtaking honey is bad for you.


Maple syrup is made from the circulating fluid, or sap, of sugar maple trees. It contains minerals and antioxidants. There are several different grades of maple syrup characterized by color, though classification can vary between countries. The darker is better because it contains higher amounts of antioxidants.


Coconut sugar is the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. It is often confused with palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree.

Coconut-based sweeteners are derived from the coconut palm tree – not the coconut itself. They contain very small amounts of minerals like zinc, calcium, potassium, and short-chain fatty acids. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than sugar. It contains inulin fiber, which helps to slow the glucose absorption and keep blood-sugar levels balanced.

Coconut sugar is very high in calories (same as table sugar) and fructose. Moderation is the key.

Sorghum syrup

Sorghum syrup is made from the green juice of the sorghum plant, which is extracted from the crushed stalks and then heated to steam off the excess water leaving the syrup behind. 

Sorghum tends to have a thinner consistency than molasses, along with a slightly more sour taste. 

Modified sugars

See above.

Sugar alcohols/polyols

Sugar Alcohol (polyols) is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables (in small amounts). However, most are manufactured. Sugar alcohol is neither sugar nor alcohol – just its chemical structure is similar to sugar and alcohol.

Sugar alcohols aren’t considered intense sweeteners because they aren’t sweeter than sugar. Maltitol and xylitol are about as sweet as sucrose.

Commonly used to sweeten “sugar-free” or “reduced sugar” products – chewing gum, hard candy, toothpaste and medicines like cough syrup because they are not associated with tooth decay.

Sugar alcohols are nutritive sweeteners that are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body. Hence, they contain fewer calories than sugars. They aren’t classified as low-calorie sweeteners. The caloric content ranges from .02 to 3 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for sugars. Also, the polyol sweeteners produce a lower glycemic response than glucose or sucrose. They may be useful for people with diabetes.


They could cause gas, stomach pains, diarrhea (particularly sorbitol and mannitol) if taken in excess.


  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol
  • Mannitol
  • Maltitol
  • Erythritol
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Glycerol

2) Non-nutritive sweeteners

Other names: sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners, high-intensity sweeteners

  • Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that you use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose).
  • Nonnutritive sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes (intense sweeteners) because they are often sweeter than sugar. So you need only small amounts of sweeteners. That’s why food manufacturers use them in place of sugar since they cost them a lot less than sugar. Food manufactures are driven by profits, not so much for your health.
  • Nonnutritive sweeteners enhance the flavor/texture of food.
  • Some derived from plants or herbs, or even sugar itself. Some are manufactured.
  • The worst kind of sugar

Foods that contain non-nutritive sweeteners:

  • “Sugar-free” products
  • Diet soft drinks
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Canned foods
  • Jams
  • Dairy products
  • Tabletop sweeteners


  • Weight control: Zero- or low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar because they are not carbs nor completely absorbed by your digestive system.
  • Diabetes control: They have zero glycemic index because artificial sweeteners aren’t carbohydrates. Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise blood sugar levels. However, continued over-production of insulin can lead to insulin resistance. So you must watch out the intake. Other benefits are adding virtually zero calories to your diet, and harmless to teeth.
  • Prevention of tooth decay: Unlike sugar, it doesn’t contribute to tooth decay. That is why they are used in oral hygiene products, such as mouthwash and toothpaste.


  • Cancer: though it’s not for sure
  • Diabetes: for overconsumption
  • Sugar craving: especially dangerous for kids.
  • Inadequate calorie intake: They provide fewer calories per gram than sugar because they are not metabolized. Growing children need to consume enough calories daily based on their height and weight.
  • Nutrition issues: they offer no nutritional benefits such as vitamins and minerals.
  • Stability issues: With a few exceptions, artificial sweeteners undergo chemical changes when exposed to high temperatures, such as those required for cooking and baking. You should read the product label to find out how a non-nutritive sweetener can be used.


  • Aspartame (NutraSweet®, Equal®)
  • Sucralose (Splenda®)
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®, SugarTwin®)
  • Neotame
  • Acesulfame K (Sunett®, Sweet One®)
  • Cyclamate

Low-calorie sweeteners (LCS)

  • Sweeteners that contain few to no calories
  • Sweeteners have a higher intensity of sweetness per gram than sweeteners with calories (table sugar, corn syrups). Some LCS can be used as sweeteners for diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Commonly used for “light,” “reduced calorie,” and “sugar-free” foods and drinks: processed foods, frozen desserts, yogurt, candy, baked goods, cereals, gelatins.
  • may cause weight gain by stimulating appetite and sugar preference in some people.

Natural zero calorie sweeteners

Natural no-calorie sweeteners come from a natural source. Stevia (Truvia, PureVia, etc.) is considered a natural sweetener. Because it comes from the stevia plant.

These are not carbohydrates and contain little or no calories. It is only in recent years that interest has grown in these as a better alternative to artificial sweeteners. They have zero glycemic index and are harmless to teeth. Like artificial sweeteners, they can have an aftertaste.


  • Luo Han Guo
  • Stevia
  • Thaumatin
  • Pentadin
  • Monellin
  • Brazzein

More Resources
16 Danger of sugar: Sugar health

Conclusion: There are so many different type of sugars and it’s very confusing.Despite its forms, overtaking any sugar is bad for you. It’s very important to minimize the sugar intake in order to stay healthy. Moderation is the
key. I'll continue to deconstruct sugars so that you can understand them better. 

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