A Glossary of Natural Sugars & Added Sugars

Find answers to common questions about sugar—such as what is fructose and what is glucose—in our sugar glossary.

When it comes to the health implications of sugar, most of what you hear about is naturally-occurring versus added sugars. But what are natural sugars and what are added sugars? This sugar glossary identifies and helps explain the difference between some common natural and added sugars.

Watch: Video: How Sugar Impacts Your Body


Glucose

What is Glucose?

A so-called “simple” sugar naturally found in all foods that have carbohydrate. Starch (e.g., in potatoes, pasta) is many glucose molecules linked together.


Fructose

What is Fructose?

Another simple sugar, fructose is often called “fruit sugar” because it’s the main type of natural sugar in fruits (and honey).


Sucrose

What is Sucrose?

A natural “complex” sugar that’s about half glucose, half fructose (two “simple sugars”); it’s extracted from sugar cane and sugar-beet plants and refined to make “table sugar.”


Corn Syrup

What is Corn Syrup?

A syrup used mostly in baking that’s virtually all glucose; it’s made by extracting and breaking down starch from corn into separate glucose molecules.


High-Fructose Corn Syrup

What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

First available in 1967 and used by commercial food manufacturers, it’s made by converting some of corn syrup’s glucose into fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is high in fructose only in relation to plain corn syrup; chemically, it’s very similar to sucrose: about 50/50 glucose and fructose.