Nutrition 101: What Is Crystalline Fructose?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Recently, some of you asked about crystalline fructose, a sweetener that is used in plenty of drinks, even some that call themselves "health drinks." We decided to do some research into this corn-based sweetener to help you better understand what you're sipping.

Fructose is a naturally occurring simple sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Many of us consume it regularly as part of our healthy diet. We also know that fructose is 55% of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with glucose making up the other 45%.

What about the crystalline form of fructose that is being used in carbonated beverages, enhanced or flavored waters, sports and energy drinks, and nutrition bars as well as baked goods, frozen foods, cereal, dairy products, reduced-calorie foods, canned fruits, and drink mixes?

Crystalline fructose is derived from corn just like high fructose corn syrup. Extra processing steps result in the crystalline product that is close to 100% pure fructose. Federal standards define crystalline fructose be at least 98% fructose with the remaining 2% as water and minerals. This nearly pure fructose sweetener is 20% sweeter than sucrose (also known as table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup and has been around for about 20 years.

Crystalline fructose offers several unique benefits that make it more advantageous to use compared to high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. These are also some of the reasons we are seeing it so widely used today.

Sweetness - Because crystalline fructose is sweeter than table sugar and HFCS, it is a valuable sweetener for low calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages since less can be used to achieve the same sweetness. This saves money and carbohydrate contribution for the same sweetness impact.

Improved product texture, taste and stability - This form of fructose is easily combined with other sweeteners and starches to not only boost sweetness but also improve cake height in baked goods and provide excellent "mouth-feel", surface browning color and pleasant aroma during baking. Since fructose does not hydrolyze in the same manner as sucrose, product flavor remains stable for extended storage periods.

Low Glycemic Index - Fructose has a low glycemic index (22) compared to other sweetener sources such as honey (55), High Fructose Corn Syrup (62) and table sugar (64). Since the bodies' glycemic response is dependent on both the type AND amount of carbohydrate consumed, lower index and less sweetener, aids in the development of foods with low glycemic loads ideal for sugar controlled foods and beverages.

The Bottom Line - Crystalline fructose provides unique benefits compared to other sweetener options including High Fructose Corn Syrup. Because of these benefits, it can be found in a wide variety of products today from dry beverage mixes and enhanced or flavored waters to breakfast cereals, baked goods and other confections. It provides the same safety as consuming other forms of sweetener as well as many of the risks.

Instead of worrying about its safety, perhaps we would all do better to examine what products we are consuming that contain it and why we are consuming them. It is included as a sweetener and we know that in a healthy diet we are best to reduce our sweets. Instead of asking why there is crystalline fructose in my flavored water or energy drink, ask yourself why you are drinking the flavored water or energy drink to begin with. Is it really something you need or would you be better off drinking water with fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice in its place.

Instead of focusing on the presence of crystalline fructose in your breakfast cereal, ask yourself if the sweetened cereal is the best choice to start your day compared to good old fashion oatmeal or another whole grain cereal. Use this opportunity to take a closer look at the labels of the foods and beverages you are consuming to notice what sweeteners are present whether it be HFCS or crystalline fructose. Then take it a step further and ask yourself if this is a sweet product that could be replaced with something more nutritious.

Even if you are consuming calorie free sweetened products, evaluate them to see if there is something better you could be selecting instead. Not only would this help reduce your intake of the crystalline fructose sweetener, it could also replace your intake of sweetened products in general. This can be especially beneficial if these sweet products can be replaced by other more nutritious choices. Perhaps an ounce of nuts with some dried fruit instead of a nutrition bar for a mid-afternoon snack or plain water sweetened with fresh squeezed lime instead of something that has been enhanced or flavored. It might even save you some money at the same time.

What food and beverage products are you consuming regularly that contain crystalline fructose? What other foods or beverages could you select instead to reduce crystalline fructose and other sweetener intake?

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Thank you for this great info! Report
fructose is still a sugar and sugar, however we ingest it, will make us fat unless used cautiously.

A 1.5 hour lecture by a medical doctor explaining why he wants fructose labeled as poision!

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin. Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public [7/2009] [Health and Medicine] [Show ID: 16717]
This article is very informative, a bit reprimanding in the end, and the link to the Low Glycemic Index is useful. I can see myself referring to that index for future physiology/chemistry classes. Personally, I perfer pure, clean, clear water without the additives or possibly add my own, like citrus, Vitamin C or B12. Report
First I just want to complain a little bit about all the chiding at the end of this otherwise handy article. I'm doing a GOOD thing here by dropping sodas for flavored water products. And I'd like to choose the least evil one possible for my long-term health. And no, I am just NOT going to drink plain water. I'm already going one step better. Don't push me further forward. If I want to, I'll do it myself, in due time!

With that off my chest, the product that brought me here was Fuze healthy infusions (Green Tea flavor). Also I noticed the fructose in the other flavors of Fuze. I swapped them for Sobe Life Water beverages instead. They contain a little bit of real (gasp, I know) sugar instead. No HFCS, no fructose, no artificial sweeteners. I have the metabolism to handle the sugar, in regards to weight loss; like I said, I'm just trying to find products that are safer for my long-term health. Vitamin Water is also a better alternative for me than Fuze, if sugar is safer than fructose. I guess that crystalline fructose is worse than just fructose? That's what I REALLY wanted to know, but am still left pondering.... Report
I'm lucky! I live in a rural area with an artesian well. The water comes out of the tap ice cold (from the well). It tastes wonderful. (I have it tested, annually.) I have friends that prefer my well water to their bottled water!

However, much as I love my water, & drink gallons...there are times when I still want some added flavour...& generally turn to my favourite - Crystal Lite. Lots of flavours to choose from & it actually takes very little to add lots of flavour. But as always...moderation in all things. Report
I always drink plain water. When I started using Leslie Sansone's Walk At Home tapes, I started drinking a lot of water and I learned to love it! It's so good for us! Report
I make my own tea and drink plain water. I have never liked the flavored water drinks. Report
I was tired of buying Gatorade for my electrolytes since it has HFCS and food dyes. I found Cytomax, something my dad used while doing mountain bike races. I was hesitant to buy it since it had crystalline fructose. I hadn't heard of the sweetener but knew it couldn't be that good for me. I would LOVE to buy Clif's electrolyte drink mix but it is expensive and I can only find it online. Some day....
However, the electrolyte replacement drinks are my only not-so-natural stuff. I am an athlete in a desert and get dizzy spells because of it, so electrolyte drinks are a must. It is just a matter of finding the lesser of the evils... Report
I am learning to LOVE water! Report
I tasted Propel once, and it was WAY too sweet for me. I didn't like it.
Flavored water I'm not a fan of at all. I like 100% juice, and might add water to it, but if I want water, I just drink water. Report
Interesting; I had never heard of it before. There are so many sugars out there! I try to drink plain water or unsweetened tea. I used to love soda and sweet iced tea but now I think these drinks are way too sweet! Report
I drink plenty of plain water daily. But when I want something with flavor I put in lime or lemon. Sometimes a flavored sugar free sweetner . Even then I add double the amount of water called for. Aside from that I read all my labels anyway. Always on the hunt for hidden what ever in everything! Report
To answer your question, yes I've noticed for some time now the listing of "crystalline fructose" on various product labels. Figured it was just crystallized sweetener from fruit sugars. I gradually got myself away from sodas containing sugar, salt, and caffeine and used to the taste of Diet Rite, which is flavored with splenda. Also like Propel and Gla├žeau. Do I used a lot of these products? No. Do I avoid them completely? Also a no, although I absolutely cannot tolerate nutrasweet/aspartame/l-phenylalanin
e. Too much obsessing over so much health info tends to drive me nuts, and let's remember that life itself is a terminal state of existence. I do get the point that it's not the number of years we have, but the QUALITY of those years, which is why I stopped smoking and then ended up here at SP :=) Report
I stick to plain water!! Report
I've never liked drinks like Propel or Powerade, and I quit drinking soda (I might share one w/ my husband once a month or so) about 9 years ago, and don't miss it one bit. When I DO want something with more flavor, I reach for flavored WATER. As in WATER WATER - no calories, no sweeteners, no nothing. My current favorite is Hint water - . They're DELICIOUS, and are just water. Report
For those who are drinking Propel, you might look at your newer bottles. I drank it religiously for about 8 years and the last batch we bought (about a month ago) had HFCS listed in the ingredients. I was already trying to move to plain water and that was the key thing that got me there. I don't always manage to get my 8 glasses in, but I'd rather drink plain water and not worry about what may or may not be in there. Report
I use flavored water as a"treat" once in awhile. I drink purified water all day long! I find i can drink alot more of purified water than tap water. For those of you who want a cost effective way to purify your water go to and check out their system. Compare to other purifiers it is affordable. We dont have alot of money and couldnt really afford it, but because i felt so strongly that it was important to our health to drink good water, we splurged and bought one. Best thing i ever did for myself and drinking LOTS of water is easy now!
I haven't noticed crystalline fructose in any of the foods that I eat, and I only drink water, but I'll be on the lookout for this additive while label-reading. Thanks for the heads-up! Report
I don't really encounter it very much but I'll be on the lookout now for it. Report
And here you've hit the nail on the head:
"Instead of worrying about its safety, perhaps we would all do better to examine what products we are consuming that contain it and why we are consuming them. It is included as a sweetener and we know that in a healthy diet we are best to reduce our sweets. Instead of asking why there is crystalline fructose in my flavored water or energy drink, ask yourself why you are drinking the flavored water or energy drink to begin with. Is it really something you need or would you be better off drinking water with fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice in its place. "

Switch to cooking and eating at home with whole, close-to-the source ingredients, and you won't have to worry about product safety. At our house, we eat food, not products.
Bottom line- it's still a processed food. People always complain about the presence of HFCS in their foods, but guess what- if you eat a diet that based on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein, there won't be much in there. However, there is no conclusive evidence that HFCS leads to obesity. Report
All natural here! You won't find me harming my family or myself with any of these types of products. I'd rather risk the extra calories in honey or agave nectar than put artificial or highly processed "stuff" into our bodies. Report
I drink plain water, but once in a blue moon I will have enhanced water to break the monotony. In all of the articles I've read about sugar and sweeteners, I have not seen 100% organic Date Sugar mentioned. The label says it's 100% California grown Deglel Noor Dates. 15 calories per tsp. I don't know how it rates glycemic index-wise. But it's good when mixed with ground flaxseeds and sprinkled on oatmeal. Sometimes, not every day, I like a little sweetness. Report
I think it is all about getting back to finding ways to eliminate processed foods/drinks - whole/natural foods are always going to better ... Report
Nothing I drink contains any artificial sweeteners because I drink only water, and sometimes with a wedge of lemon in it. The problem with drinking low calorie or non caloric beverages is that when your taste buds taste sweet but your body doesn't receive calories, you are more likely to crave for food that contains real calories. That definitely doesn't help people with binging problem. Report
I stopped eating foods that contained HFCS, crystalline fructose, sugar alcohols, etc... I really do worry about eating foods that have all those artificial sweetners and preservatives. So, I do my best to avoid them.

However, before I stopped eating foods with artificial ingredients, I loved low cal yogurt. I believe it was Dannon or Columbo brand yogurts that used crystalline fructose.

I stopped eating those brands because of it. Now, I eat organic or Greek style yogurt.

I know the experts say that fructose is mostly harmless, but how do we know for sure ? I say to err on the side of caution. A person should reduce their intake of foods that contain artificial ingredients.
Usually I drink plain water but occasionally I'll have Crystal Light or some articially flavoured drink. Plain water is best but it's nice to have a change sometimes. It is all about choices, I think. Being aware of what you're doing is important to make intelligent choices. Report
I personally think drinking water with crystal light or other added things is better than drinking no water at all. I drink mostly plain water, but I will drink sweetened drinks if I so choose. We all have the ability to make choices for ourselves and what we want to put into our own bodies.

I like being able to choose! =) Report
I like to have water with 'true lime' or 'true orange' it has no calories or sweetners ands a bit of flavor to water. I also like plain water. Report
Excellent blog. We should be limiting our consumption of processed foods with sweeteners added. The last three paragraphs are SWEET FOOD FOR THOUGHT!!! Report
In my opinion, crystalline fructose sounds like something used by companies as a cheaply-made version of sugar which, in large doses, causes people to gain weight.

I know there's been a backlash against HFCS, and I've see rebuttals to that in commercials by the Corn Refiners Association. If it's so bad, then why are companies like Snapple and Pepsi advertising that they are using sugar instead of corn syrup in their products (Snapple Natural and "throwback" Pepsi and Mountain Dew)?

I don't believe in using Splenda or other man-made sugars, and I put HFCS and crystalline fructose in that category. Report
I love fresh water so that's easy for me. And I'm sure a totally fresh diet would be great, but I'm not that good. So I eat sandwiches and snack on crackers when I need to fit in something on the run. My frustration is that it is hard to find bread or crackers or many other foods that don't have HFCS and/or hydrogenated oils. Report
I drink a fourth of my water with lemon juice in it with no sugar. When I make my tea I add Altern which is a form of splenda. I usuallly only drink 1 diet coke a day but then I try to do without it too. I drink a lot of water with nothing in it. Sometimes I drink 11 or 12 glasses of water. Some people think if you add lemon or lime you have to add sugar but that isn't so. Report
I try to drink plain water daily but I find that after a few glasses I will not keep drinking so I have to find other ways to get my water in for the day. Also, my husband is a diabetic so I have to use artificial sweeteners for him, and no longer have any regular sugar in the house. Whenever I am out of the house I do but the water that has lime or lemon in it with no sweetener and also the Fuze Slenderize drinks which I like. I don't drink more than 1 a day though. So any tips more than that to get my water in I would appreciate. Report
I agree with MrsHoney! right on
I'm a firm believer in water - PURE water. Once you add anything to it, it is no longer water - it becomes lemonade or "crystal light". It takes away from the quality of water. It's like cooking without salt - some people say it lacks "taste" when in reality all it lacks is salt, something we're addicted to, just like (all forms) of sugars.
Can someone do a blog on the agave nectar/syrup use as a sweetener? I've recently seen it added to the shelves at WalMart.
How about a comparison between ALL forms of sweeteners: honey, agave nectar, splenda, 'regular' sugar etc? Report
This blog goes hand in hand with Coach Nancy's...

WE are in control of ourselves if we choose to be! We can either choose to moan and complain about crystalline fructose in our consumable products...I'll refrain from calling such things *food*, OR we can vote with our feet and stick with *REAL FOOD* and steer clear of such substances!

It's up to us folks...yes it can be tough to resist all that advertising, to resist that everyone-else-is-consuming-this mentality...

But we do have that choice. And when we exercise that choice it can feel as satisfying at times as though we have won a literal race!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
I occasionally drink Fuze green Tea that has the crystalline fructose in it. I din't realize that it was made from corn also. I will make my own green tea all the time now. It is much more economical that way also. I am also dringking more water now that I have a stainless steel water bottle that keeps the water cool! Report
You are about right. I have found water to be the only thing without fructose unless I make my own herbal tea. So I drink a lot of water until I need a change and I drink Propel and Powerade Zero sometimes. Report
I drink Propel all the time. It has sucrose and sucralose. I'm sure water is better but I really hate plain water. I've tried it with lemon, lime and other things to make it taste better but I still can't drink it so I drink propel. It's better than soda. I also drink Crystal Light. Report