Nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners enhance the flavor and/or texture of food. Nutritive sweeteners provide the body with calories, while nonnutritive sweeteners are very low in calories or contain no calories at all. They can both be added to food and beverages.
The following resources below provide general information about both types of sweeteners.
- Sweet Stuff, How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health from the National Institutes of Health.
- Sweeteners from MedlinePlus.
- Sweeteners systematic reviews: from USDA Nutrition Evidence Library.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Position Paper: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners
- Sugar and Sweet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Ed Hot Topic: Sugars provides resources on sweeteners, including statistics, reports, and online carbohydrate calculators.
- Food Ingredients and Colors provides information on food additives, including sweeteners from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Nutritive sweeteners, also known as caloric sweeteners or sugars, provide energy in the form of carbohydrates.
Some sugars are found naturally in foods. For example, fructose is found in fresh fruits. By eating the whole fruit, you not only consume fructose, but you feed your body fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that you do not get from sugar alone.
Many of the sugars in our diet come from "added sugars" - sugars added to food prior to consumption or during preparation or processing. Added sugars are used to enhance the flavor and texture of foods and to increase shelf-life. Examples of added sugars include sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Learn more about sugar and other common nutritive sweeteners.
- Sugar Content of Selected Foods: Individual and Total Sugars (PDF | 3.5 MB) from USDA.
- Background on Carbohydrates & Sugars from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
- Questions and Answers About Sugars from IFIC.
- Sugars: 10 Facts You May Not Know (PDF | 222 KB) from IFIC.
- Sugars 101 provides information on how to identify added sugars and tips to lower the amount in your diet from AHA.
- The Truth About Agave from WebMD.
- Questions and Answers About Fructose from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
- Dietary Fructose Intolerance
- Dietary Fructose Intolerance from University of Iowa Healthcare.
High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- High-fructose corn syrup: Any health concerns? from the MayoClinic.
- Questions and Answers About Fructose from IFIC.
- High-fructose Corn Syrup Quick Facts from Corn Refiners Association.
- Honey: A Reference Guide to Nature's Sweetener (PDF | 820 KB) from National Honey Board.
- National Honey Board
To learn how added sugars can fit into your diet, see MyPlate.
Nonnutritive sweeteners are zero- or low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners, such as table sugar. These sweeteners can be added to both hot and cold beverages and some can be used for baking. Nonnutritive sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar so only small amounts are needed. They provide fewer calories per gram than sugar because they are not completely absorbed by your digestive system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the following nonnutritive sweeteners: acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and stevia.
- Facts About Low-Calorie Sweeteners from IFIC
- Sugar Substitutes from Calorie Control Council.
- Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer from National Cancer Institute.
- Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes from the MayoClinic.
- Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame from IFIC.
- Aspartame Information Center from Calorie Control Council. Provides facts, benefits, and myths about aspartame use as well as information about products that contain this ingredient.
- The Global Stevia Institute discusses how stevia is made and stevia and health.
- Stevia Sweeteners: Another Low-Calorie Option (PDF | 1.9 MB) from IFIC.
- Everything You Need to Know About Sucralose from IFIC.