Chemists think of sugars as carbohydrates, and classify them in molecular terms. Monosaccharides consist of single sugar molecules with a chemical formula of CH2O; glucose (or dextrose), fructose and galactose are monosaccharides. Disaccharides are sugars that consist of two sugar molecules chemically bonded. These include sucrose (table sugar made from sugar cane or beets), made from glucose and fructose; and lactose, or milk sugar, made from glucose and galactose. Maltose, also seen as a food ingredient and in molasses, is made from two glucose molecules. Other natural sweeteners, such as honey and corn syrup, are made up of combinations of these carbohydrates.
Food chemists distinguish between sugar-based nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar, honey and molasses, and starch-based nutritive sweeteners, such as corn syrup, rice syrup, and barley malt. Natural sweeteners packaged for consumer use and retail sale that are also nutritive, providing approximately 4 calories per gram (as is typical of all carbohydrates), include:
- Sugar (including granulated white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, confectioners or powdered sugar, and specialty sugars such as turbinado sugar)
- Maple syrup
- Corn syrup
- Barley malt
- Rice syrup
- Agave nectar
Considered to be enormously helpful by some and dangerous by others, artificial sweeteners that provide sweetness with extremely low or no caloric value have been in use for decades. In the U.S. market, the artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA include saccharin (marketed as Sweet ‘N Low), sucralose (marketed as Splenda), aspartame (marketed as Equal, Nutrasweet and NatraTaste), acesulfame potassium (also called Ace-K, and marketed as Sunett, Sweet One), and neotame.