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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the different types of sugars?

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    Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds, PhD (Dr Bec) Personable and ethical registered nutritionist (RNutr) and lecturer at UNSW Australia in lifestyle and health. Regular consultant to the … View Profile

    The different types of dietary sugars, i.e. sugars in foods and drinks, are as below:

    • Monosaccharides, “mono” meaning “one” and “saccharide” meaning “sugar, i.e. these sugars are made up of only one sugar unit/molecule. Includes fructose (e.g. common fruit sugar) and glucose (e.g. commonly added to energy drinks). Also includes galactose, which isn't really found ”free" in foods/drinks.
    • Disaccharides, “di” meaning “two”. Comprised of two sugar molecules. Includes sucrose, which is the joining up of glucose and fructose monosaccharide units and is what is commonly known as table sugar; lactose, which is the joining up of glucose and galactose monosaccharides and is the main dairy sugar.
    People often think sugar is “evil”, but it is not in all cases. Added sugars, especially glucose (e.g. as a syrup in lollies and energy drinks) and sucrose (e.g. to biscuits and breakfast cereals) are not great, they don't provide much other than calories. Glucose is especially undesirable because it has the highest glycemic index (GI) out of all the sugars. However, most refined starchy foods-have higher GIs than “sugar” and should be watched out for as much as added sugars - find out more here:

    Fructose and lactose sugar found in fruit and dairy are GOOD sugars - they have low GIs and are associated with great nutrition like micronutrients/protein.

    In summary, consume natural sugars that are inherent to a food, e.g. lactose in dairy and fructose in fruit, and avoid added sugars like sucrose and glucose syrup.

    In all cases, avoid sugary drinks, like soft drinks and added sugars to coffee AND fruit juice - if you want some fruit eat the whole thing.

    P.S. Your body's main internal “sugar” is “glucose” and is vital for life, e.g. your brain likes this as its main fuel, but you want to keep your blood sugar/glucose levels nice and steady by consuming low GI foods.

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    The Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF) is a not-for-profit company supported by The University of Sydney and JDRF (Australia). GIF is committed to providing Australians with … View Profile

    The simplest form of a carbohydrate is a single-sugar molecule (glucose, fructose or galactose). Glucose is the most common form of sugar and is a major source of fuel for the cells in the human body.

    Sucrose is also known as common table sugar and is made up of glucose and fructose.

    Lactose is the sugar found in milk and is made up of glucose and galactose.
    Fructose is the sugar found in fruit.

    There are many others too- for example, dextrin, maltose and maltodextrins!
    All sugars are not the same. Many foods naturally high in sugars are very nutritious like fruit, milk and yoghurt. Unfortunately food labels don’t help you distinguish between the slowly absorbed and the rapidly absorbed sugars or tell you whether the sugars are naturally occurring or added.

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    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Sugar! Without it there would be no chocolate, no cakes and no diversion from the afternoon meltdown. Sugar is a wondrous ingredient that can be used in countless ways. But sugar is not without its mysteries. To understand sugar’s role in cooking it helps to take a small detour into science so we can break it down into its basic parts.
    Sugars are the simplest forms of carbohydrates, also known as saccharides. Sugars can be monosaccharides (meaning a single sugar molecule) and disaccharides (double), which are simply two monosaccharides bonded together. Our body actually breaks down almost everything we eat into these sugars, which are then combined to form more complex carbohydrates like starch.
    Monosaccharides are simple sugars, meaning they have only three to seven carbon atoms arranged in either a chain or ring structure. The ‘mono’ stands for one, and signifies that monosaccharides only have one ring. Two kinds of monosaccharides include glucose and fructose. Glucose is the most important monosaccharide in nature; it is the main source of energy for body cells and is present in most sweet fruits, as well as in your blood. Fructose is the sweetest monosaccharide, present in fruits and honey.
    Disaccharides are two simple sugars linked together in a double ring. Your body must break down disaccharides, just like any carbohydrate other than monosaccharides, before you can get energy from them. Maltose is a disaccharide. It consists of two glucose molecules, while sucrose consists of glucose and fructose.
    Polysaccharides are large chains of simple sugars, consisting of many monosaccharides. Examples of polysaccharides include starch and glycogen, both of which consist of hundreds of glucose units and different types of bonds holding them together. Polysaccharides serve two main functions: storing energy that your body can use when external food supply is low and providing structural support and protection

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