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Basic Sugars & Sweeteners

Basic Sugars and Sweeteners

Are you confused by all of the different sugars and sweeteners? It’s no wonder, because there are so many of them. This list should help you to sort it out:

Dextrose, fructose, and glucose.  All are monosaccharides, or simple sugars; the difference lies in how your body metabolizes them. Dextrose and glucose are essentially the same; however, food manufacturers usually use dextrose on their nutrition labels.

Table sugar. Half glucose and half fructose, disaccharide, or table sugar, is a complex sugar formed from two simple sugars.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS, which is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, may well be the most damaging of all sugars. You can trace the rise of diabetes in the United States with the increased use of this corn-based product. It is everywhere, including in most sodas and even in some breads.

Ethanol. The form of alcohol that is in alcoholic drinks, ethanol is not a sugar, although beer and wine contain residual sugars and starches.

Sugar alcohols. Examples are xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol. These are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed in your small intestine, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.

Sucralose (Splenda). This is not a sugar, despite its sugarlike name and the deceptive marketing slogan “made from sugar.” Splenda is a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, with detrimental health effects to match.

Agave syrup. Falsely advertised as “natural,” agave syrup is highly processed and is usually 80 percent fructose. It does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant.

Honey. Honey is about 53 percent fructose, but in its raw form it is completely natural and has health benefits, including antioxidants, when used in moderation.

Stevia. This is a very sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe. This does not raise your blood sugar, and many people like its taste.