Got Invert Sugar?
Have you ever added sugar to your coffee just to find it piled up at the bottom of the glass? But, somehow store bought coffees are sweet without that pile of sugar at the bottom. Their secret? Invert sugar. Invert sugar is a sweetener frequently used in beverages and desserts because of its ability to maintain a smooth texture and retain moisture.
What is invert sugar?
Invert sugar is made from table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it’s composed of two different sugar molecules: glucose and fructose. Invert sugar is made by breaking the bonds between glucose and fructose with a process called hydrolysis (a chemical reaction between water and acids, enzymes or heat). The result is a solution of half free glucose and half free fructose, which is sweeter than the original solution.
Invert sugar got its name due to the angle that polarized light reflects through this sugar. Polarized light shining on sucrose is reflected at a certain angle, but when it shines on invert sugar, the light is rotated, or inverted, in the opposite direction.
Though it sounds more complicated than our typical sucrose, it is actually quite similar nutritionally. In fact, you may be surprised to find the number of foods and beverages that contain invert sugar.
Foods with invert sugar:
Invert sugar can be found in many foods, but it's most commonly found in:
Fruit beverages that are not 100% fruit juice
Syrups (such as those used in alcoholic drinks or coffee)
Soft drinks (and other sweetened beverages)
Additionally, there are some other names that invert sugar goes by:
Artificial honey. The same as inverted sugar syrup, sometimes called "artificial honey" because it tastes like honey.
Honey. Honeybees naturally break down sucrose into the invert sugar form of glucose and fructose by using an enzyme they make called invertase.
Invert maple syrup. A small amount of invert sugar is in all maple syrups. However, invert maple syrup is formulated to have higher concentrations. Found in maple-flavored lollipops, candies, frostings, and other maple confections.
Inverted sugar syrup. This is used in commercial baking and made with invert cane. It is also sold as a liquid sweetener for coffee drinks. There are two types of inverted sugar syrup: 50% inverted sugar syrup and 100% inverted sugar syrup. The 50% kind contains half of its sugar content as sucrose with the other half being changed, or inverted, to glucose and fructose. 100% inverted sugar syrup has had all its sugar changed, or inverted, to glucose and fructose.
So, what are the benefits of invert sugar?
1. Dissolvability and Texture: Compared to table sugar, invert sugar is more soluble in water at room temperature, which means it dissolves easier than sugar. Because invert sugar dissolves easily in cold liquids, it is commonly used in sweeteners and syrups for cold beverages such as iced coffee. Unlike table sugar, which when added to cold beverages such as iced coffee, sinks to the bottom of the cup and forms a clump because it doesn’t dissolve well in cold liquids. It is also less thick compared to liquid sweeteners, making for a smoother drink. And lastly, it is less likely to crystalize, which means it has a “smoother mouth feel” texture compared to other sugars.
2. Sweetness: Due to its structure, invert sugar is sweeter than table sugar. You might think because it is sweeter it is also higher in calories, but this is not the case! Invert sugar is nutritionally comparable to table sugar, which provides about 16 calories and 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon. Here are how some common brands of invert sugar measure up:
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 variations in sugar and calorie content of the brands are due to syrup concentrations.
3. Longer shelf life: Food containing invert sugar may not spoil as quickly as those containing other sweeteners, extending the shelf life of the products it's used in and making it less likely for them to be wasted. Fully inverted sugar's low water content is what increases the shelf life of products that contain it. The shelf life of partially inverted sugar is about six months and varies by storage and climatic conditions.
Invert sugar can be an enjoyable sweetener option especially in certain beverages where table sugar doesn’t mix well. However, keep in mind for health reasons it’s smart to limit your daily intake of sugar overall. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sugar intake to 36 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.
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Written by Tony Giordano, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern