The simple message is yes….and no! Nutritive sweeteners do provide calories with their sweet taste while Non-Nutritive sweeteners provide few or zero calories with their extra sweet tastes. Depending on your calorie needs and desire for sweet tasting beverages and foods, you need to decide which sweetener is right for you. Over consumption of added sugars in the American diet has been blamed for many preventable diseases, including diabetes and obesity. Try using nutrient dense-naturally sweet fruits, vegetables and dairy foods as often as possible to satisfy your need for sweet instead of calorie dense baked goods, candy, sweetened beverages and added sugars/sweeteners.
Read below for a summary of the most commonly used sweeteners and follow the links for for in-depth data on each.
Sugars commonly found in foods include:
• Glucose A monosaccharide and the primary source of energy for body cells.
• Fructose A monosaccharide found in fruit, honey, and some vegetables. In nature, it is linked with glucose as the disaccharide sucrose. Fructose may be used as a nutritive sweetener.
• Galactose A monosaccharide that occurs in dairy products and some plants.
• Sucrose A disaccharide that occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables. It is composed of approximately equal parts glucose and fructose and is used as a nutritive sweetener and for its other functional properties.
• Maltose A disaccharide composed of two glucose units; it is found in molasses and is used for fermentation.
• Corn-based sweetener Refers to many products made from corn. They may be composed primarily of glucose, fructose, or any combination of the two. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a mixture of glucose and fructose and is only available to food manufacturers.
• Agave nectar A nutritive sweetener that contains fructans, oligosaccharides of fructose and glucose, and monosaccharides of fructose and glucose.
Sugar often refers to sucrose, which is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses added sugars to refer to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing, preparation or before consumption. In addition to imparting a sweet taste, sugars have the following functions that are important to safety
and quality in foods:
• Inhibit microbial growth by binding water in jams and jellies.
• Add texture, flavor, and color to baked goods.
• Support the growth of yeast for leavening or fermentation.
• Contribute volume in ice cream, baked goods, and jams.
• Enhance the creamy consistency of frozen desserts.
• Enhance the crystallization of confectionary products.
• Balance acidity in salad dressings, sauces, and condiments.
Help to maintain the natural color, texture, and shape of preserved fruits.
Nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) offer little to no energy when ingested. They are referred to as high-intensity sweeteners because, as sweetening ingredients, they are many times sweeter than sucrose. NNS can replace the sweetness of sugar or energy-containing sweeteners. However, they do not have the same functional properties such as browning, crystallization, or microbial inhibition.
Nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners enhance the flavor and/or texture of food. Nutritive sweeteners provide the body with calories, while nonnutritive sweeteners are very low in calories or contain no calories at all. They can both be added to food and beverages.
Want more information on different types of sweeteners: follow these links for General Resources from http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-composition/nutritive-and-nonnutritive-sweetener-resources
The following resources below provide general information about both types of sweeteners.
Sweeteners from MedlinePlus.
Sweeteners systematic reviews: from USDA Nutrition Evidence Library.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Position Paper: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners
Sugar and Sweet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Ed Hot Topic: Sugars provides resources on sweeteners, including statistics, reports, and online carbohydrate calculators.
Food Ingredients and Colors provides information on food additives, including sweeteners from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Nutritive sweeteners, also known as caloric sweeteners or sugars, provide energy in the form of carbohydrates.
Some sugars are found naturally in foods. For example, fructose is found in fresh fruits. By eating the whole fruit, you not only consume fructose, but you feed your body fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that you do not get from sugar alone.
Many of the sugars in our diet come from “added sugars” – sugars added to food prior to consumption or during preparation or processing. Added sugars are used to enhance the flavor and texture of foods and to increase shelf-life. Examples of added sugars include sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Learn more about sugar and other common nutritive sweeteners.
Sugar Content of Selected Foods: Individual and Total Sugars (PDF | 3.5 MB) from USDA.
Background on Carbohydrates & Sugars from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
Questions and Answers About Sugars from IFIC.
Sugars 101 provides information on how to identify added sugars and tips to lower the amount in your diet from AHA.
The Truth About Agave from WebMD.
Questions and Answers About Fructose from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
Dietary Fructose Intolerance from University of Iowa Healthcare.
Fructose Intolerance: Which foods should I avoid? from the MayoClinic.
High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High-fructose corn syrup: What are the concerns? from the MayoClinic.
Questions and Answers About Fructose from IFIC.
Honey: A Reference Guide to Nature’s Sweetener (PDF | 820 KB) from National
National Honey Board
To learn how added sugars can fit into your diet, see Healthy Eating Plate.
Nonnutritive sweeteners are zero- or low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar. These sweeteners can be added to both hot and cold beverages and some can be used for baking. Nonnutritive sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar so only small amounts are needed. They provide fewer calories per gram than sugar because they are not completely absorbed by your digestive system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the following nonnutritive sweeteners: acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and stevia.
Facts About Low-Calorie Sweeteners (PDF | 1.3 MB) from IFIC
Sugar Substitutes from Calorie Control Council.
Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer from National Cancer Institute.
Artificial Sweeteners: A safe alternative to sugar? from the MayoClinic.
Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame from IFIC.
Aspartame Information Center from Calorie Control Council. Provides facts, benefits, and myths about aspartame use as well as information about products that contain this ingredient.
Stevia Sweeteners: Another Low-Calorie Option (PDF | 1.9 MB) from IFIC.
Everything You Need to Know About Sucralose (PDF | 1.7 MB) from IFIC.