Types of Sugar

all nutritions

Have you heard someone say “I’m lactose intolerant?” Chances are you have, but did you know that this just means they’re intolerant to the sugar in milk! Yes, lactose is the sugar in milk and other dairy products that are made from milk.

In fact, the name of any ingredient that ends with ‘ose’ is most likely a sugar. Try to think of a few other such names and then check out the table below.

Table of contents

  1. Different Names of Sugar
  2. 3 Main Types of Sugar
  3. Different Forms of Sugar
  4. Stevia & Monk Fruit
  5. Conclusion
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Were you able to come up with names of sugar that end with ‘ose?’ If not, here are some examples for you:

Different Names of Sugar

Monosaccharides (Simple Sugars)

 Name Properties
  • Found naturally in cereals, vegetables, some fruits and honey.
  • Main source of energy for most cells in the body.
  • Also present in blood (blood sugar).
  • Found naturally in fruits, some vegetables, and honey.
  • Sweeter than glucose.
  • Major sugar in high-fructose corn syrup, a common sweetener in processed foods.


Disaccharides (Double Sugars)

 Name Properties
  • Refined from sugarcane or sugar beets.
  • Common table sugar used in cooking and baking.
  • Found naturally in some fruits and vegetables.
  • Found naturally in germinating grains like barley and sprouted whole grains.
  • Also produced during the breakdown of starch in the digestive system.


Sorry for an overd‘ose’ but this is the truth. Now you probably understand how sugar has so many names, and isn’t always called by its actual name. The world of sugars may seem complex, but at its core, there are three main types.

3 Main Types of Sugar

1. Monosaccharides

Monosaccharide is "single sugar," the simplest form of carbohydrates. Think of them as the building blocks of sweetness. They're the body's preferred fuel source, your body absorbs them directly, giving you a quick energy boost – perfect for that afternoon slump!

Monosaccharides can also transform easily, they team up with other sugar molecules to then form more complex forms like disaccharides.

2. Disaccharides

Disaccharides, meaning "double sugar," are slightly more complex, made up of two monosaccharide units joined together. Sucrose, or table sugar, is a classic example, formed from glucose and fructose. 

Disaccharides require a little extra processing by the body before they can be used for energy. Lactose, the sugar in milk, is another disaccharide, made of glucose and galactose. Interestingly, the ability to digest lactose (lactose tolerance) can decrease with age, leading to some people experiencing discomfort after consuming dairy products. 

Maltose, another disaccharide found in germinating grains, adds a touch of sweetness to some bread and cereals. While disaccharides provide energy, it's important to focus on whole food sources like fruits and milk to get the additional benefits of fibre, vitamins, and minerals that come along with these natural sugars.

3. Calorie-free Sweeteners

Sugar is the magic ingredient that adds sweetness and joy to almost any and every food and beverage. But for those watching their calorie intake or managing blood sugar levels, traditional sugar can be tricky. Thankfully, nature offers a solution: calorie-free sweeteners or zero-calorie natural sweeteners. These plant-derived wonders come from various sources like leaves, fruits, and even vines sometimes. They are intensely sweet, often more than table sugar, and they don’t even add any calories to your diet. Sounds too good to be true? More on this later.

Let’s come back to Monosaccharides and Disaccharides again.

 Feature Monosaccharides Disaccharides
Structure Single Sugar Unit Two monosaccharides joined together
Examples Glucose, fructose, galactose Sucrose, lactose, maltose
Absorption Direct to bloodstream Requires breakdown by enzymes
Energy Fastest source of energy Slightly slower source of energy


Both types of sugars play essential roles in our bodies, providing energy for our cells and contributing to the taste and texture of the foods we enjoy. 

Different Forms of Sugar

Now let’s come to the different types of sugar, all the forms and names we hear around us (Hint: most of them are Disaccharides!)

  1. Brown Sugar
  2. Dates
  3. Jaggery
  4. Honey
  5. Coconut Sugar
  6. Cane Sugar

Note: You’ll come across the word molasses while talking about sugar, but no need to be scared. It’s not a monster, it’s a thick, dark syrup leftover from sugar production. It's made by boiling down sugar cane or sugar beet juice.

1. Brown Sugar

  • Type of Sugar: Disaccharide (primarily sucrose) with molasses added back in.
  • Characteristics: Light or dark brown colour, moist texture, richer caramel-like flavour compared to white sugar.
  • Benefits: Adds depth of flavour and moisture to baked goods, may contain trace amounts of minerals from molasses (depending on processing).
  • Disadvantages: It can be clumpy and may require breaking up before use.
  • Health Considerations: Similar to white sugar in terms of calories and impact on blood sugar. It’s advised to consume it in moderation.
  • Fact: The colour of brown sugar comes from the molasses, not the actual refining process. Dark brown sugar has more molasses, leading to a stronger flavour and a more moist texture.
  • Usage Tips: Ideal for cookies, brownies, cakes, and sauces where a deeper flavour and chewy texture are desired. Substitute brown sugar for white sugar in a 1:1 ratio, but don’t forget that it may affect sweetness and browning.

brown sugar

2. Dates

  • Type of Sugar: Mixture of simple sugars (monosaccharides) - fructose and glucose, with some sucrose (disaccharide).
  • Characteristics: Dried fruit with a chewy texture and naturally sweet taste.
  • Benefits: Excellent source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron. May aid digestion and promote heart health.
  • Disadvantages: High in natural sugars and calories. Can be sticky and require removing seeds.
  • Health Considerations: Enjoy in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Dates can be a healthy alternative to processed sugary snacks but be mindful of portion sizes.
  • Fact: Dates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits, with evidence of their use dating back to 7000 BC!
  • Usage Tips: Enjoy whole as a snack, chop and add to trail mix, oatmeal, or yoghurt. Dates can also be used as a natural sweetener in baking or blended into smoothies.

dates and date sugar

3. Jaggery

  • Type of Sugar: Unrefined sugar product, primarily a disaccharide (sucrose) with some monosaccharides (fructose and glucose) and minerals.
  • Characteristics: Solid block or loose granules, dark brown colour, earthy and caramel-like flavour.
  • Benefits: May contain small amounts of minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium. Sometimes termed as a "healthier" sugar alternative due to its unrefined nature, but the difference in nutritional value compared to refined sugar is minimal.
  • Disadvantages: High in calories and sugar content.
  • Health Considerations: Similar to brown sugar in terms of calories and impact on blood sugar.
  • Fact: Jaggery is not only used as a sweetener but also plays a role in some traditional Indian festivals and religious ceremonies.
  • Usage Tips: Can substitute sugar in some recipes like Indian sweets or sauces though jaggery's flavour profile might not be suitable for all applications.

jaggery and jaggery sugar

4. Honey

  • Type of Sugar: Mixture of simple sugars (monosaccharides) - fructose and glucose, with some maltose (disaccharide) and other trace sugars.
  • Characteristics: Golden to amber colour, viscous liquid, sweet taste with floral or earthy undertones depending on the source.
  • Benefits: Natural source of antioxidants, may offer some potential health benefits like wound healing.
  • Disadvantages: High in calories and sugar content. Not suitable for people with bee allergies.
  • Health Considerations: Consume in moderation, especially for individuals with diabetes or weight management concerns. Opt for raw, unfiltered honey for potential additional benefits.
  • Fact: Honey has antibacterial properties and can stay fresh for thousands of years! Ancient Egyptian tombs have revealed jars of honey still edible after 3,000 years.
  • Usage Tips: Pour over pancakes, yoghurt, or fruit. Use as a natural sweetener in beverages, marinades, or salad dressings. Honey can also be used in some baking applications, but it may affect texture and colour.

honey used as sugar

5. Coconut Sugar

  • Type of Sugar: Primarily a disaccharide (sucrose), but not refined sugar. Made from the sap of coconut palm flowers.
  • Characteristics: Fine granules, light brown colour, caramel-like flavour with a hint of toffee. Often hailed as a healthier sugar alternative due to its lower glycemic index compared to white sugar.
  • Benefits: May have a slightly lower glycemic index than table sugar, but still high in calories and sugar content. May contain trace amounts of minerals like potassium and magnesium.
  • Disadvantages: Can be more expensive than other sugars. The glycemic index difference compared to white sugar might be minimal depending on consumption.
  • Health Considerations: Similar to brown sugar in terms of calories and impact on blood sugar. Moderate consumption is key.
  • Fact: Coconut sugar production is not as sustainable as some other sweeteners due to the high number of palm trees required.
  • Usage Tips: It can substitute white sugar in some recipes. Use in recipes where the caramel flavour compliments the dish.

Coconut sugar

6. Cane Sugar

  • Type of Sugar: General term for sugar derived from sugarcane. Can refer to various types of sugar products depending on the level of processing, including white sugar, brown sugar, and raw sugar.
  • Characteristics: Varies depending on the specific type of cane sugar (e.g., white sugar is fine granules, raw sugar has a golden colour and larger crystals).
  • Benefits: None in particular, as the nutritional value is similar to other refined sugars.
  • Disadvantages: High in calories and sugar content. Provides "empty calories" with minimal nutrients.
  • Health Considerations: Consume in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Limit intake of added sugars for overall health.
  • Fact: Sugarcane is originally from Southeast Asia and was taken to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century.
  • Usage Tips: Depends on the specific type of cane sugar. White sugar is a versatile sweetener for baking and beverages. Raw sugar can be used for similar purposes but might require adjusting the amount due to its larger crystals.

cane sugar

Stevia and Monk Fruit

Well, remember the third type of sugar we talked about at the top? Stevia and Monk Fruit are calorie-free sweeteners. Hence, this is the third type of sugar.

Stevia and Monk Fruit are natural, non-caloric sweeteners derived from plants. Both are intensely sweet (much sweeter than sugar) and won't raise blood sugar levels, making them popular options for diabetics and those watching their weight.


Extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant leaves, Stevia has a slightly bitter aftertaste that some dislike. It's highly concentrated, so even a tiny amount goes a long way.

stevia as a natural calorie-free sweetener

Monk Fruit

Also known as Luo Han Guo, Monk Fruit is often used in traditional Chinese medicine as well. Monk Fruit is also considered to have a more pleasant taste than Stevia. It's also concentrated and is required in small amounts for sweetness.

monk fruit as a natural calorie-free sweetener

The Takeaway: While both Stevia and Monk Fruit offer a guilt-free way to sweeten, be mindful – their concentrated nature can make it tricky to achieve the desired sweetness without overdoing it. Moderation and finding the right balance is the key.

Bonus: Wondering why we didn’t mention aspartame, saccharin, sucralose (yes, it’s different from sucrose!), and many more such names? Because, they are technically not sugar, they are artificial sweeteners. What’s the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners you ask? Well, that’s a topic for another blog!


So, there you have it! You now understand sugar better from the simple building blocks of sweetness (monosaccharides) to the more complex options at your disposal (and on gourmet store shelves). Remember, all sugars, natural or refined, can affect your body in some or other ways. The key is to be mindful of portion sizes and choose whole food sources like fruits whenever possible. After all, they come packed with extra benefits like fibre and vitamins that refined sugars lack.

And while Stevia and Monk Fruit may seem like tempting options for a guilt-free indulgence, their highly concentrated nature shouldn’t be missed.

All in all, sugar in any form or shape is going to be sweet. It’s best to understand which one suits your body and taste without severely affecting your health. Also, while buying something from the supermarkets, you should now start reading and understanding which products have which kind of sugar. Especially when choosing the “healthy” products.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are all sugars bad?

Sugar occurs naturally in some foods and we have been consuming sugar since we were apes. So how come it has suddenly become the biggest villain of the town? Well, it’s because our consumption of sugar is rising each day. Right from our chips to “healthy” foods, everything has a lot of table sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. So consuming naturally occurring sugars from fruits (in moderation) is not bad. All you need to do is

2. Is stevia better than sugar?

The short answer is yes. Stevia has become a popular natural substitute for sugar due to its zero-calorie nature. However, it’s much sweeter than sugar, so if consumed in excess, it can be harmful. Even people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes should be careful even when consuming stevia.

3. Is it okay to eat jaggery every day?

Jaggery, while less processed than table sugar, still contains calories. It may contain small amounts of minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. However, the difference in nutritional value compared to refined sugar is minimal. You can consume it moderately if consumed daily.

4. Are dates healthier than sugar?

Dates are indeed healthier than sugar. They are whole foods with fibre that help in digestion, have antioxidants that help reduce signs of ageing and have a low glycemic index which is good for blood sugar. This makes them a healthier alternative for sweetening your food. However, dates still have sugar and calories, so enjoy them in moderation.

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