What is Allulose?: A Different Kind of Low-Calorie Sweetener

Sugar can seem simple, but the science is pretty complicated. While many of us are familiar with sugar (aka sucrose), which is found in foods as diverse as sugar cubes, salad dressing, fruits and vegetables, this is only one type of sugar. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides, and they’re made up of a single sugar molecule. Two sugar molecules bound together are called disaccharides. Sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. Lactose, which is found in milk and dairy foods, is another disaccharide - it’s made from the monosaccharides galactose and glucose. Disaccharides can also consist of two identical monosaccharides. Such is the case with maltose, which is made up of two glucose units. And then there’s allulose…

What is allulose?

Allulose, a monosaccharide also known as psicose, is a rare sugar. It’s found naturally in dried fruits like jackfruit, figs and raisins, but only in small quantities which makes it difficult to extract from its original source. Allulose is about 70% as sweet as sucrose, tastes just like it and even has the same chemical formula (albeit the hydrogen and oxygen atoms are arranged differently). Gram for gram, allulose has approximately 90% fewer calories than sucrose. It’s somewhat hard to find in food products at the moment, but that may change in the future. Scientists have recently discovered ways to produce allulose on a larger scale, making it available as a food ingredient.

Due to its extremely low sugar content, allulose is becoming more popular among ketogenic (“keto”) dieters—those who eat so few carbohydrates that the body begins making and using a separate energy source called ketone bodies. But you don’t have to go keto to enjoy this sugar alternative. Allulose is versatile for use in food products that are baked, frozen or in liquid items. These diverse applications makes it an alternative for those looking to reduce sugar content in their food and beverage choices. 

In addition to its low caloric content and functionality in food science, allulose is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. It is not metabolized by the body, but is instead absorbed by the small intestine and excreted in the urine. Because of this, allulose doesn’t increase blood glucose or insulin levels.

Stay close, there may be more to come on allulose

Allulose is still a pretty new entry to the food scene, and while it may be difficult to find at your local market, it’s relatively easy to find online. Feel free to use it in recipes that require cooking, baking or freezing—it’s versatile that way. And, stay tuned as research sheds light on this new sugar alternative.

This blog includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD and Allison Webster, PhD, RD.

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