List of Sugar Crops, Sweeteners Distinguished

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Sugar crops are plants that are natural sources of the sweet substance called sugar in large quantities. These natural sweeteners are found in or extracted from different organs such as the roots of sugarbeet, tubers of Jerusalem artichoke, the stems of sugarcane, sorghum and sugar maple, the inflorescences of certain palms, the grains of corn, and many fruits (Hill 1972).

Table 1. List of sugar crops that are major sources of various types of sugar.

Sources of Sucrose
Sugarcane Saccharum officinarum Poaceae / Gramineae
Sugarbeet Beta vulgaris Chenopodiaceae / Amaranthaceae
Sugar maple, Maple tree Acer saccharum Aceraceae
Black maple, Black sugar maple, Hard maple, Rock maple Acer nigrum Aceraceae
Sweet sorghum, sorgo Sorghum bicolor Poaceae / Gramineae
Palms (various names) various species Arecaeae / Palmae
Sources of Glucose
Corn, maize (corn syrup or crystallized corn sugar from starch) Zea mays Poaceae / Gramineae
Potato, White potato (from starch) Solanum tuberosum Solanaceae
Sources of Fructose
Dahlia (from inulin) Dahlia pinnata Asteraceae
Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, sunroot (from inulin) Helianthus tuberosus Asteraceae
Corn, maize (high-fructose corn syrup from starch) Zea mays Poaceae / Gramineae
Sources of Galactose
Flax, Linseed (from flaxseed gum or mucilage) Linum usitassitimum Linaceae
Sources of Mannose
Ivory nut, Ivory nut palm (from endosperm) Phytelephas macrocarpa Arecaceae / Palmae
Manna ash tree, Flowering ash (from juice secreted through the bark) Fraxinus ornus Oleaceae
Sources of Maltose
Barley Hordeum vulgare Poaceae / Gramineae
Rice Oryza sativa Poaceae / Gramineae

For more enlightenment on sugar crops, click here to read What is Sugar

Besides these sugars, there are sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol which are also considered nutritive sweeteners because they provide energy to consumers along with sweetness. They have relative sweetness of 0.6, 0.7, and 0.9, respectively, and are thus less sweeter than sucrose which, for comparison, is presumed to have a relative score of 1 (Wardlaw et al. 2004).

These sugar alcohols are derivatives of monosaccharides after one or more functional groups are altered through chemical reactions. The reduction product of D-glucose is D-gluticol which is popularly called D-sorbitol, D-galacticol for D-galactose, and so forth (Bettelheim and March 1998). Sorbitol is prepared by hydrogenation of glucose under high pressure over a nickel catalyst (Carey 1992).

Further, there are alternative sweeteners, also called artificial sweeteners, which provide little or no energy. These include the cyclamate, aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin or sodium salt, sucralose, and neotame which have relative sweetness scores of 30, 180, 200, 300, 600, and 7000-13000, respectively, meaning that their sweetness range from 30 times to 13,000 times more than that of sucrose. However, the use of cyclamate was banned in the United States in 1970 despite the absence of conclusive proof that it can cause health problems when properly used. But in Canada, it is also used as a table-top sweetener (Wardlaw et al. 2004).

In addition, the stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a shrub of South American origin, has been suggested as a potential replacement for the conventional sugar crops. Its sweetening compound is a diterpene glycoside called stevioside which is 100 to 300 times sweeter than ordinary sugar (Lyakhovkin et al. 1993 cited by Lantican 2001; Wardlaw et al. 2004). But it provides no calories. As of 2004 according to Wardlaw et al. (2004), stevia was on sale in health-food outlets in the United States as a dietary supplement.


BETTELHEIM FA, MARCH J. 1998. Introduction to General, Organic & Biochemistry. 5th ed. Orlando, Florida: Saunders College Publishing. 809 p.

CAREY FA. 1992. Organic Chemistry. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1274 p.

HILL AF. 1972. Economic Botany. TMH ed. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. p. 210-241.

LINSTROMBERG WW, BAUMGARTEN HE. 1987. Organic Chemistry: A Brief Course. 6th ed. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company. 517 p.

LANTICAN RM. 2001. The Science and Practice of Crop Production. Los Baños, Laguna, Phils.: SEAMEO SEARCA and UPLB. 330 p.

WARDLAW GM, HAMPL JS, DiSILVESTRO RA. 2004. Perspectives in Nutrition. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill companies, Inc. 752 p.

(Ben G. Bareja December 2011)

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