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I try to be careful to avoid hydrogenation and artificial sugars when I buy food products. Hydrogenation seems easy - if it mentions hydrogenation in the ingredients list, I avoid it. I feel more confused by sugars.

So, for example, sugar and honey I feel comfortable with. Corn syrup I feel comfortable with. High fructose corn syrup and aspartame I avoid.

The problem is that there are so many sugars that I have trouble keeping them straight. Sucrose, glucose, maltodextrine - those are chemical names, to be sure, but to my knowledge they are "natural" in the sense that they are naturally derived. I think.

Can someone post a list of the various sugars that we see in ingredient lists - or that we have the option to use as ingredients in the foods we make - with an explanation of whether they are natural or not? Or to what degree they are not natural?

Now, I understand that "natural" means different things to different people, so I expect some qualification will be needed for at least some ingredients. Also, to narrow the focus of the question and the resulting answers, let's keep this focused on the list and short description of the various sugars as opposed to the broader discussion concerning whether artificial sweeteners are bad for you or not.


Update

I guess this isn't a very popular question. Perhaps people who care about this as I do generally understand the ingredient lists better?

So today I ran into an example of what I'm describing above. I noticed polydextrose in an ingredient list. What I would have liked to do is come back to this question and look at an answer to this post that has that ingredient as artificial or natural with a brief description of it. However, this isn't in the incomplete list of artificial sweeteners posted in the answer by TFD (I don't mean for this to be offensive - at least you answered with something, which I appreciate). Not being a dietician, I looked it up and it looks pretty artificial to me.

Is there someone out there who is passionate about this stuff who could post such a list for the rest of us?

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I think the problem with this question is the presumption that "artificial" sugars are worse than "natural" ones. While there is some new evidence that may link HFCS to worse health outcomes than ordinary table salt, I don't think the matter is settled. With the possible exception of honey, all sugars, when used as ingredients, are inherently "unnatural". –  nohat Jan 17 '13 at 6:32
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polydextrose is not a sweetner, it has similar "cooking" properties of sugar, but is not sweet –  TFD Jan 17 '13 at 19:23
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Most likely the reason you're not getting the kinds of answers you're looking for is that you've spelled this out as a health question rather than a cooking question. Experienced bakers are interested in sugar and its various analogues primarily for their flavour and texture qualities, not the "naturalness" of one or the other. And more savvy health-conscious consumers ditched the "natural" obsession years ago and started paying more attention to the glycemic index and glycemic load. Sugar is sugar once it's inside you, and all of the sweeteners are completely different from each other. –  Aaronut Jan 18 '13 at 1:20
    
I've found it is difficult to examine this type of question without starting a discussion about the health of the different types of sugars. On this site, that is not a good idea. –  staticsan Jan 18 '13 at 2:18
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Means of production isn't a quality. There is no "scale" or "gradient" from natural to artificial - at least not that any cook or chef I know cares to speak of. It's just not very interesting how "processed" a sweetener is; what's interesting is its flavour and how it behaves during various cooking processes or sometimes in the finished product (e.g. sugar alcohols being humectants). If someone in the industry would like to step up and prove me wrong, great, but AFAIK the question of how "natural" a sugar is is pretty far down the list of practical baking questions, if it's on there at all. –  Aaronut Jan 18 '13 at 23:48

2 Answers 2

Sugar, as in common table sugar from sugar cane, is sucrose, which is a chemically weak linked combination of glucose and fructose. Your stomach acids will split sucrose very fast. So the difference in using natural cane sugar and factory split glucose may only be a matter of minutes once you eat the stuff

Same goes for almost all the sugars other than the "artificial sweeteners" which are generally not sugars at all, they just taste very sweet

Some artificial sweeteners are very natural in the general scheme of things when compared to processed sugar etc.

Nearly everything that comes in a packet with a barcode is not "natural". White table sugar is not natural. Buy some sugar cane stem, and crush and boil it, then you can see the difference

I would rather use the white table sugar though, as it is more likely to be clean and tested as being non-contaminated

Sugar Substitutes

There is a great list of sugar substitutes including artificial sweeteners on Wikipedia. Many of which would be better for you if sugar levels was of a concern in your diet (it is for some people). Many are useless in baking

The list of "artificial sweeteners" is thus:

  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Alitame
  • Aspartame
  • Equal
  • Dulcin
  • Glucin
  • Neohesperidin dihydrochalcone
  • Neotame
  • NutraSweet
  • Nutrinova
  • P-4000
  • Saccharin
  • Salt of aspartame-acesulfame
  • Sodium cyclamate
  • Sweet'N Low
  • Sucralose
  • Twinsweet
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This post can be helpful in some contexts, but doesn't really answer the question. As mentioned, I'd really like a list of the sugars/sweeteners so I can recognize them as I see them in lists. –  firebush Dec 30 '12 at 3:26
    
You missed the point a bit then. Edited anyway –  TFD Dec 30 '12 at 3:42
    
One class of sugar substitutes you didn't mention are the sugar alcohols - sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, etc. Although these aren't 1-for-1 substitutions, they're nevertheless used as sweeteners and very common to find in packaged foods (especially sorbitol) and quite useful in baking. –  Aaronut Jan 18 '13 at 1:14
    
Not sure which answer to comment on, but one other sweetener that is kind of in both camps is Stevia. (It will be pretty obvious, though, as its inclusion is as much marketing as mere ingredient selection.) –  staticsan Jan 20 '13 at 23:16

Fooducate has compiled such a list of artificial sweeteners and sugar synonyms:

  • Aspartame – marketed as Nutrasweet (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K) / E950 -
  • marketed as Sunett / Sweet One (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Agave
  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley Malt Extract
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Evaporated Cane Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar (golden syrup)
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol (2.6 calories)
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Neotame (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharin (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Saccharose
  • Sucralose – marketed as Splenda (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sorbitol (2.6 calories)
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose
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