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What is rice syrup?

Many people look for sweetener alternatives for a variety of different reasons. Health and diet is one, lifestyle is another and some choose a range of different sweeteners for moral reasons (many vegans, for example, will look for an alternative to honey). As more people look for alternative sweeteners to add to cooking, meals and baked goods, the popularity of rice syrup (also called brown rice syrup or rice malt syrup) is on the rise but is it truly a healthy alternative to other sugar products?

What is rice syrup?

Rice sugar is a liquid sugar that’s derived from brown rice and can be used as a substitute for honey or sugar. Golden in colour and with a consistency that’s similar to honey or golden syrup, rice malt syrup has a mouth feel similar to many other syrups but doesn’t taste as sweet as sugar and has slightly less calories per 100gms than sugars produced by cane sugar. 

How is rice syrup produced?

Rice malt syrup is made by steeping cooked rice starch with enzymes to help break down the starches within the liquid. Traditionally, enzymes in sprouted barley malt were used to break down the starch into sugars; however, in commercial manufacturing of rice malt syrup, bacterial or fungal based enzyme isolates are used. 

Once the enzymes have broken down all the starch, the liquid is drained and an evaporative heating method is used to boil off excess moisture until the desired consistency is obtained.

What is the chemical composition of rice syrup?

Rice malt syrups will have a different chemical makeup depending on the manufacturer. Generally speaking, most rice malt syrups will have the following makeup of sugars. 

  • Maltose 65-85%
  • Maltotriose 10-15%
  • Dextrose 5-20%
  • Glucose 2-3%

Nutritionally, how does rice malt syrup compare to table sugar?

Whilst rice malt syrup resembles many other types of syrups like golden syrup, treacle, maple syrup, honey or molasses, it has a very different makeup of sugars giving it a less sweet taste than many other types of sweeteners. 

Due to it’s high maltose content, rice malt syrup has a high glycemic index (GI) of 98.

If we look purely at calorie totals, rice malt syrup has a similar number of kilojoules per 100gms of product when compared to other types of sweeteners. Below are some comparisons of kilojoules totals:- 

Kilojoules per 100gms

Honey - 1662KJ

Maple syrup - 1439KJ

Malt syrup - 1440KJ

Rice malt syrup - 1322KJ

Agave syrup - 1310KJ

Malt extract - 1310KJ

Coconut syrup - 1310KJ

Date syrup - 1280KJ

Does rice malt syrup have any other ingredient other than sugars?

There have been some studies that have found trace amounts of inorganic arsenic (Asi), dimethylarsinate (DMA) and monomethylarsenate (MMA) in a range of products that use rice malt syrup as a sweetener including toddler formulas, energy shot blocks and cereal bars. 



Shaw, Jei-Fu, and Jyh-Rong Sheu. "Production of high-maltose syrup and high-protein flour from rice by an enzymatic method." Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 56.7 (1992): 1071-1073.

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