Sweeteners: What Are the Differences?
Information is plentiful about new ways to sweeten the American diet. Coffee shops are showing raw sugar, agave, and even maple sugar to go with the flavored skim soy lattes they serve. What are the differences between these nutritive sweeteners? The following information may help you sort it out!
Where Is It From?
Found in Mexico, agave is most famous for its role in tequila production. For sweetening purposes, juice is extracted from the core of the agave plant, processed, and filtered into a juicelike consistency.
Often used in place of sugar or honey, agave is easy to dissolve in cold drinks and is more intense the darker the color. Contains iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Made from corn, primarily in the United States, HFCS is cheaper to produce than sugar and is easy to transport.
Comparable to table sugar in its sweetness, HFCS may prolong shelf life of foods, but may contribute to obesity more than sugar. Not a significant source of vitamins/minerals.
Honey is made all over the world by honeybees, derived from the nectar of flowers.
Used in cooking, baking, spreading, and teas, honey has a rich history throughout the world. Depending on the variety of honey, sometimes antioxidant compounds are present.
Raw sugar (demerara, turbinado, muscovado)
Raw sugar is simply minimally refined sugarcane. It is produced mainly in Hawaii.
Often used in beverages and cooking or baking, raw sugar is sensitive to moisture and will harden quickly. It has a molasses-like flavor. No significant nutrients are present, but it is slightly more nutritious than refined white sugar.
Sugarcane and sugar beet are indigenous to warm climates (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Thailand, and Australia). Various methods are used to extract the nectar to make sugar.
Used in cooking, baking, flavorings, and beverages, sugar is refined in various ways to create powdered/
American Dietetic Association. Facts about fructose. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/ada/files/FRUCTOSE.pdf. Accessed April 20, 2009.
American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. J Am Diet Assoc [serial online]. 2004;104:255-275. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/ada/files/Nutritivenp.pdf. Accessed April 20, 2009.
Zeratsky K. High-fructose corn syrup: what are the concerns? Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588. Accessed March 16, 2009.
Review Date 4/09