If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, you may wonder whether the type of sugar matters.
Sucrose, glucose and fructose are three types of sugar that contain the same number of calories gram for gram.
They’re all found naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains but also added to many processed foods.
However, they differ in their chemical structures, the way your body digests and metabolizes them and how they affect your health.
This article examines the main differences between sucrose, glucose and fructose and why they matter.
Sucrose Is Made up of Glucose and Fructose
Sucrose is the scientific name for table sugar.
Sugars are categorized as monosaccharides or disaccharides.
Disaccharides are made up of two, linked monosaccharides and broken back down into the latter during digestion (1).
Sucrose is a disaccharide consisting of one glucose and one fructose molecule, or 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
It’s a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many fruits, vegetables and grains, but it’s also added to many processed foods, such as candy, ice cream, breakfast cereals, canned foods, soda and other sweetened beverages.
Table sugar and the sucrose found in processed foods are commonly extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets.
Sucrose tastes less sweet than fructose but sweeter than glucose (2).
Glucose is a simple sugar or monosaccharide. It’s your body’s preferred carb-based energy source (1).
Monosaccharides are made up of one single unit of sugar and thus cannot be broken down into simpler compounds.
They’re the building blocks of carbohydrates.
In foods, glucose is most commonly bound to another simple sugar to form either polysaccharide starches or disaccharides, such as sucrose and lactose (1).
It’s often added to processed foods in the form of dextrose, which is extracted from cornstarch.
Glucose is less sweet than fructose and sucrose (2).
Fructose, or “fruit sugar,” is a monosaccharide like glucose (1).
It’s naturally found in fruit, honey, agave and most root vegetables. Moreover, it’s commonly added to processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Fructose is sourced from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn. High-fructose corn syrup is made from cornstarch and contains more fructose than glucose, compared to regular corn syrup (3).
Of the three sugars, fructose has the sweetest taste but least impact on your blood sugar (2).