Invert Sugar Facts and Benefits

Homemade invert sugar in a glass jar
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Invert sugar is a sweetener commonly used in treats and beverages thanks to its ability to retain moisture and keep a smooth texture. Invert sugar might have a flashier name, but it's nutritionally the same as table sugar and other added sweeteners.

It is important to be mindful of the amount of added sugars in your diet, including invert sugar. These sweeteners may provide excess calories.

What Is Invert Sugar?

Invert sugar is used as a sweetener in foods, just like table sugar, maple syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. It is actually derived from table sugar (scientifically known as sucrose).

Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it is made up of two different individual sugar molecules attached together (in this case, glucose and fructose).

Invert sugar is made by breaking the bonds between the glucose and fructose. The result is a solution of half free glucose and half free fructose. Those bonds are then broken through hydrolysis—a chemical reaction between water and heat, enzymes, or acids.

To put it simply:

  • Sucrose = Glucose+Fructose (attached)
  • Invert Sugar = Free Glucose + Free Fructose (apart)

The name invert sugar comes from the way that polarized light is reflected through the sugar. When polarized light shines on sucrose, the light is reflected at a certain angle. When it shines on invert sugar, the light is rotated in the opposite direction.

Invert sugar can be found in many foods, but it's most commonly found in:

  • Baked goods
  • Candies
  • Cereal
  • Fruit beverages that are not 100% fruit juice
  • Granola bars
  • Ice cream
  • Soft drinks (and other sweetened beverages)
  • Syrups (such as those used in coffee or alcoholic drinks)
  • Yogurt

Added sugars can be found in many foods, even those where you least expect to see them. Reading the ingredient label is the only sure way to know if a food contains invert sugar.

Other Names for Invert Sugar

You will usually see “invert sugar” listed in the ingredients section of a food label. However, there are also additional sources of invert sugar on the market, some of which are natural and others that are man-made.

Other names for invert sugar include:

  • Artificial honey. This product is technically the same as inverted sugar syrup but is sometimes nicknamed "artificial honey" thanks to its honey-like flavor.
  • Honey. Honeybees produce an enzyme called invertase that allows them to naturally break down sucrose into the invert sugar form of glucose and fructose.
  • Invert maple syrup. All maple syrup contains a small amount of invert sugar, but this type is tinkered with to create higher levels. It’s often used in maple-flavored candies, lollipops, frostings, and other maple confections.
  • Inverted sugar syrup. This liquid syrup is made with invert cane sugar and is often used in commercial baking. It is also available for consumers to purchase as a liquid sweetener which can be used to make coffee drinks.There are two types of inverted sugar syrups: 50% or 100 %.
  • 50% inverted sugar syrup still retains half of its sugar content as sucrose, but half of the sugar has been inverted to glucose and fructose.
  • 100% inverted sugar syrup has had all its sugar inverted to glucose and fructose.
  • Simple syrup. Simple syrups are often found at bars where they can be heated into a mixture of sugar and water to create varying levels of invert sugar. They are often used in cocktails.

Benefits of Invert Sugar for Food Production

At room temperature, invert sugar is more soluble in water compared to table sugar. Ever add a spoonful of sugar to your iced coffee and find that it piles up at the bottom of the cup? That’s because sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold liquids.

On the other hand, invert sugar dissolves well under these conditions. That’s why it's often used in sweeteners and syrups for cold beverages (such as iced coffee).

Invert sugar has other benefits for food manufacturers, including:

  • Better flavor (increased sweetness)
  • Products may be more resistant to microbial spoilage compared to those made with other sweeteners
  • Reduced viscosity compared to liquid sweeteners without invert sugar
  • Softer, smoother product texture (related to less sugar crystallization)

Nutrition Facts

Invert sugar can be useful in home and commercial kitchens, but you’ll want to be mindful of how much you use (just as you want to limit the amount of table sugar you consume). 

Sucrose and invert sugar have some different chemical and structural properties but are nutritionally alike.

A teaspoon of sucrose contains 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar. If you compare this to different brands of invert sugar, you’ll see similar figures. Here are a few examples of common brands on the market. Per teaspoon:

  • CK Liquid Invert Sugar: 15 calories, 4g sugar
  • Florida Crystals Liquid Organic Raw Cane Sugar: 17.5 calories, 4.5g sugar
  • Kelly’s Delight Original Liquid Sugar: 12 calories, 4g sugar
  • Sugar in The Raw Liquid Cane Syrup: 20 calories, 5g sugar

The slight differences in each brand’s calorie and sugar content are due to the concentration of the syrup.

Limiting Added Sugar

Whether you’re eating a granola bar made with invert sugar, sucrose, sugar from honey or syrups, or sugar added from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices, they are all forms of added sugar. Consistently consuming sugar in excess of what your body requires increases your chances of weight gain. It may also increase your risk for chronic health concerns like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, especially if you have other risk factors.

The American Heart Association recommends that men limit added sugar intake to no more than 36 grams per day (that's 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories) and women limit their intake to 25 grams per day (equivalent to 6 teaspoons or 100 calories).

Parents are also advised to keep kids' daily consumption of added sugars within recommended ranges. Here are ways to reduce your family's added sugar intake:

  • Offer regular meals at consistent intervals.
  • Try not to moralize food. Kids are usually drawn to what's considered off limits.
  • Pay attention to food labels. Under FDA regulations for food labels, you should see a product's added sugar on the Nutrition Facts label.
  • For beverages, offer water the majority of the time and diluted fruit juice or unsweetened tea as another option.

A Word From Verywell

You can incorporate small amounts of invert sugar or other sweeteners into your diet—just make sure that you don't eat them frequently and that you stay within the recommended daily intake limits. A slice of birthday cake or iced mocha is not likely to cause health problems associated with excess sugar intake as long as these are just occasional treats. For optimal health, follow a well-balanced diet that is low in added sugars.

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Article Sources
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