What Is the Difference Between Sucrose and Sugar?

You may be confused by all the different names of sweeteners found on nutrition labels.
You may be confused by all the different names of sweeteners found on nutrition labels. (Image: disperced lump sugar and sugar-basin image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

It can be difficult to understand everything you read on nutrition labels. It isn't simply about the food groups anymore; things are getting technical. Discussion about sweeteners has become especially confusing. With all the technical jargon, it can be difficult to tell which sweeteners are being consumed in your everyday diet. Sucrose and sugar are two such items that you may find on two different lists of ingredients.


"Sugar" refers to crystalline carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables. Plants nourish themselves with sunlight in a process known as "photosynthesis." Sugar is a product of photosynthesis. Sugar is edible and is often used as a sweetener or preservative. Sugar includes, but is not limited to, glucose (or dextrose), fructose (or fruit sugar), and lactose, which is a carbohydrate found in milk.


Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose. It is found naturally in many plants but is most concentrated in sugar beets and sugar cane. Sucrose is also referred to as "table sugar," and it can be found in many kitchen cupboards.

The Mix-Up

Sugar is a carbohydrate and is used as a type of sweetener. There are many types of sugars -- some simple, some more complex. Sucrose is a type of sugar and is often used in homes for baking and sweetening foods and drinks. However, in everyday conversation, when people mention "sugar," what they are usually referring to is sucrose, or table sugar. Using this definition, "sugar" becomes synonymous with "sucrose," which can lead to confusion when reading nutrition labels.

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