Non-nutritive and Nutritive Sweeteners

Christine McKinney, RD, LDN, CDE, Thomas Donner, M.D.


Nutritive sweeteners

  • Nutritive sweeteners contain carbohydrate and provide energy.
  • Nutritive sweeteners are often termed sugars, added sugars, or caloric sweeteners.
  • Sugars are found naturally in fruits, dairy products, and some vegetables.
  • Sugars are also added to foods and beverages during processing and by the consumer before consumption.
  • The names of sugar commonly found in food includes: glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, corn-based sweeteners, honey, molasses, agave nectar, and fruit juice concentrates.
  • Sugar alcohols (polyols) contain about half the calories of sugar and are used as lower-calorie sweeteners.
  • The names of sugar alcohols are: erythritol, sorbitol, glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine), hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, and xylitol.

Nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS)

  • Have a higher intensity sweetness per gram than nutritive sweeteners.
  • Only needed in small quantities so they provide very few or no calories.
  • Also referred to as artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners, high-intensity sweeteners, or noncaloric sweeteners.

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Last updated: October 9, 2020