Types of sugar

What is the Difference Between Sugar and Sweeteners?

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
What is the Difference Between Sugar and Sweeteners?

Sweeteners, just like sugar itself, form part of our everyday diet. Many people choose to consume them instead of natural sugars - whether for dietary or health reasons, or just because of simple preference. Even if we don't take sweeteners on purpose, they're still included in many desserts or other ready-made foods that we buy, so we ought to be aware of what we're eating.

Beyond the relationship with dieting, what is the difference between sugar and sweeteners? Here at OneHowTo we'll explain the characteristics of each product and what distinguishes them.

You may also be interested in: How to replace sugar with sweetener


  1. What is sugar?
  2. What are sweeteners?
  3. What is the difference between sugar and sweeteners?

What is sugar?

Sugar is a natural sweetener that derives from different products. There are more kinds of sugar than most people are aware of - take a look at this list:

  • Sucrose, or common table sugar, derives from sugar cane.
  • Fructose is found in fruits.
  • Maltose is found in wheat and wheat-based cereals.
  • Lactose, galactose and glucose are also found in everyday food like milk or vegetables.

Just because sugar is natural and comes from food humans have always consumed, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is good for your body by definition. While it is true that sugar provides your body with a significant amount of energy and calories it needs, excess consumption of sugar can cause excessive calorie intake and other various health problems.

Moreover, the different kinds of sugar are not all equally healthy. Refined white sugar, for instance, has a higher calorie content and has gone through industrial processes. Brown sugar, on the other hand, is slightly more diluted and includes minerals; therefore, it's healthier.

What are sweeteners?

Sweeteners, unlike sugar, don't come from nature. Rather, they are chemically manufactured to sweeten products with zero or minimal calorie content. Some types of sweeteners include sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.

Besides being a low-calorie way to sweeten foods, these products are also used to preserve food, to ferment bread and flour, and to maintain the freshness of certain products. They are often used in the production of dietetic products, which are suitable for diabetics or people who don't consume sugar by choice.

Despite not being high in calories, much has been discussed about effects of long term or excessive consumption on the body. It is a chemical product, and as such, much controversy surrounds its use.

What is the difference between sugar and sweeteners?

The above explanations, then, clearly lay out some of the main differences between sugar and sweeteners:

  • Sugar comes from foods and natural products, while sweeteners are chemically-produced.
  • Sugar sweetens but also provides energy and calories, whilst sweeteners only have the sweetening effect and provide less than half of the calories found in sugar.
  • Sugar is absorbed quickly by the body, serving as a source of energy, while the sweeteners are absorbed slower and don't provide any energy.
  • Excess sugar consumption can cause conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Sweeteners are regularly used as a sugar substitute for people who can't consume sugar for health or dietary reasons, but its abuse also causes intestinal problems such as diarrhea and stomach upsets.

If you want to read similar articles to What is the Difference Between Sugar and Sweeteners?, we recommend you visit our Food & drink category.

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What is the Difference Between Sugar and Sweeteners?