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.

You’ll want to limit the total amount of any added sugars in your diet, including invert sugar, as these sweeteners provide excess calories without beneficial nutrients.

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 are known to lurk in unsuspecting places. 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. However, using these products in cocktails can add a lot of sugar and carbs to a drink.

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 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:

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

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 or one made with sucrose (or any other sweetener), it’s all added sugar and extra calories. Excess added sugar of any kind, along with consuming more calories than you need, makes it more likely you'll gain weight. In turn, it also increases your risk for chronic health problems like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that men limit added sugar intake to no more than 36 grams per day. Since women consume fewer calories overall, they are advised to limit added sugar intake to a stricter 25 grams a day.

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

  • Check a product's ingredient lists to see if it contains invert sugar or any other type of sweetener.
  • Limit sweet treats and desserts.
  • Pay attention to food labels. Under the new FDA regulations for food labels, you should see a product's added sugar on the nutrition facts label.
  • Swap sugar-sweetened beverages for water, seltzer, or unsweetened tea.

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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