Comprehensive Guide â€“ Sugars â€“And- Sweeteners
Sugar is a sweet substance which occurs naturally in fruits in the form of fructose and in milk as lactose. A sweetener is both a naturally occurring as well as synthetically prepared substance which is used in place of sugar. They are added to food to kindle the sweet taste in the person consuming the food item. Sugar obtained from natural sources in the form of fruits is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber too, whereas food items to which sugar is added contains empty calories giving no nutrients.
Sources of Sugar
Sugar is obtained from various sources such as food sources or others, some of which can be elaborated as follows:
Sucrose is obtained from sugar cane or beet juice which is low in sugar. This includes various forms like brown sugar, granulated sugar, confectionerâ€™s sugar and turbinado sugar. Raw sugar or granulated sugar is the residue left after evaporation of the sugar cane juice. Sugar crystals derived from the molasses syrup is used to make brown sugar. Powdered sugar or finely crushed sucrose is known as confectionerâ€™s sugar. Sugar in non-refined form made from sugar cane juice is turbinado sugar.
This form of sugar naturally occurs in all fruits, and is commonly known as fruit sugar. Honey, obtained from bees is a mixture of glucose, fructose and water.
- Corn Syrup
Corn is another source which is used to make sugar commonly referred to as corn syrup. It is a combination of glucose, maltose and dextrose sugars and is a regular ingredient of baked goods, soft drinks and some canned products.
Sugar alcohols are substances, sweet in taste having a distinctive chemical structure which in part matches sugar and the other to alcohol. They are plant extracts and are used to sweeten diabetic food items and are thought to be better than artificial sweeteners. Some of them are:
Sorbitol is advantageous as its caloric content is half that of regular sugar and its rate of absorption in the body is much lower. It occurs in its natural form in some fruits and berries and is formed from glucose.
Erythritol is contained in some fruit and fermented food items. The percentage of sweetness is about 60% to 70% of table sugar. It is beneficial as it doesnâ€™t lead to tooth decay, doesnâ€™t increase blood sugar and has low caloric content.
Natural sweeteners are those sweeteners that are obtained from fruits, vegetables or herbs and are not altered drastically from its natural form or processed heavily before use. Some examples which can be given are molasses, honey, maple syrup, fruit juices and nectars. Some additional forms included here can be explained as follows:
- Raw Sugarcane Juice
Raw sugarcane juice is a nutritious sweetener with a natural sugar content of 15%. It has a host of health benefits like a low glycemic index, high content of minerals and proteins as well as anti oxidants. It is an important source of energy in unprocessed and unrefined form.
- Raw Organic Coconut Crystals
This organic, unprocessed sweetener is produced from the blossoms of coconut palm sugar which is a native of South East Asia. It is a low glycemic index item and most helpful in controlling lipid profiles and glucose levels. It has high contents of magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and is a rich source of vitamins in varied forms such as Vitamin B2, B1, B6, B3 and C.
- Yacon Root
Yacon root is yet another low glycemic index sweetening liquid obtained by pressing fresh yacon root found in the Andean mountains of Peru. It can be used in the same way as honey, maple syrup. It provides many nutritional advantages like improving vitamin, calcium and magnesium absorption, boosting metabolism, controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels and many more.
- Stevia Rebaudiana
Stevia is an herb whose leaves have a sweet taste, 30 times greater in sweetness than sugar. It is highly beneficial in controlling the blood sugar levels and hypoglycemia patients need to be aware of this fact.
Artificial sweeteners are substitutes for sugar which are synthetic in nature; however naturally occurring herbs can also be their source. They seem better substitutes to sugar as they are calorie nil and need to be added in small quantities to get the required sweet taste. A few of them can be elucidated as follows:
This sugar substitute is about 7000 to 13000 times sweeter than sugar. It is a FDA approved product manufactured by NutraSweet.
This product is manufactured in laboratories; though it is many times sweeter than sugar, it is not easily absorbable in the body.
One of the most popular among the artificial sweeteners, aspartame is better known by its brand names of Equal and NutraSweet. Composed of 2Â amino acids called phenylalanine and aspartic acid this product which is 200 times sweeter than sugar is commonly used in the food and beverage industry.
While using any sugar substitute it is always better to tread with care and not get carried away by the hype surrounding it. All products which are sold as sugar-free may contain calories in some other form and prolonged use can be harmful to health. So, though it may help in weight management it needs to be taken in moderate quantities otherwise it will do more harm than any good.