Unique features of sugar
‘Sugar’ is the common name for several sweet-tasting carbohydrates that differ in flavour, crystal size, colour, and level of sweetness. The simplest forms of sugar are called monosaccharides – which are the building blocks for several other types of carbohydrates. Monosaccharides can exist on their own, but are more often found in bonded pairs to form a range of sugars.
There are three common monosaccharides:
Also known as dextrose, glucose forms the primary source of energy for the body.
Fruit sugar, more commonly known as fructose, is the sweetest of all the monosaccharides.
When combined with a glucose molecule, galactose forms the milk sugar, lactose.
Most of the sugars we commonly eat are disaccharides – a mix of two of the monosaccharides:
This is the sugar most commonly used in the home – for example, granulated sugar, caster sugar, or icing sugar.
- Inverted sugar
Inverted sugar is more commonly called syrup and is a mix of glucose and fructose. It tends to taste sweeter than granulated sugar.
What is sugar used for in products?
Sugar is used in foods for many reasons:
- It gives food a sweet taste and enhances the ‘mouthfeel’ of foods like chocolate, fondant, and fudge.
- It enhances overall flavour.
- Being water soluble, sugar plays an important role in soft drinks.
- It stabilises the dispersion of the ingredients in medical suspensions.
- It gives colour and shine to baked goods through the use of glazes and icings.
- Sugar aids in getting the desired texture in cakes, crispy biscuits and pudding toppings.
- It controls crystallisation so can prevent crystallisation in jams.
- Sugar lowers the freezing point of frozen products like frozen cakes and ice cream ensuring a smoother texture.
- It aids in preservation.
- It helps in the fermentation process in breadmaking and brewing.
- It helps keep foods moist and extends their shelf life.
Products that contain sugar
According to a survey by the University of North Carolina, roughly 60% of packaged goods contain added sugar.
- Sweetened drinks like soft drinks / soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juice drinks
- Jams and preserves
- Baked goods like cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, and biscuits
- Desserts like packaged puddings and ice cream
- Sweetened dairy products like yoghurt, chocolate milk, and milkshake drinks
- Candy bars, sweets and chocolates
- Breakfast cereals and granola
- Sauces, chutneys, marinades, and ketchup / tomato sauce
- Most pre-packaged meals like microwave meals and pizza
Types of sugar
- Granulated sugar is refined from cane sugar and/or sugar beets. Often just called white or table sugar.
- Slightly darker, more expensive minimally processed cane sugar is made from sugar cane only.
- Caster sugar is granulated white sugar that has been super-refined.
- Icing sugar or confectioners sugar is granulated sugar that has been reduced to a fine powder.
- Light brown sugar is white sugar that is given a delicate caramel flavour by adding molasses.
- Amber-coloured demerara sugar is a minimally refined raw cane sugar with the flavour of molasses.
- Medium-brown turbinado sugar has a delicate caramel flavour and is also raw minimally refined cane sugar.
- Having larger crystals, sanding sugar is more often used for decorating only.
- Pearl, nib or hail sugar is an opaque, harder and coarser white sugar with a higher melting point.
- Barbados or muscovado sugar has a sandy, sticky texture. It is a dark or light unrefined cane sugar with a rich molasses flavour.