MEET THE SUGARS

On my quest to discover all sugars sold in stores from coast to coast, I found thousands of products and present them in groups based on their source material: sap, starch, fruit, and milk.

SUGARS BY THE SOURCE

There is A LOT to see here. Scroll down to explore it all or, if you are short on time, make your choice below: 

What is Sugar, Anyway?

What is Sugar, Anyway? This is Sugar

Chemically Speaking

Sugars are the smallest and simplest type of carbohydrates. They are easily digested and absorbed by the body. There are two types of sugar.

Simple sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose) are small enough to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Double Sugars (sucrose, maltose, lactose), as the name implies, contain 2 simple sugars linked together; they are broken down in the body into simple sugars.

Caloric Sweeteners are made up of simple and/or double sugars in concentrated form.

  • The term "sugar" encompasses a wide array of caloric sweeteners from many different sources, not only from cane and beet: Sucrose from cane and beet is what we most often refer to as "sugar". However, chemically speaking, "sugar" means a simple carbohydrate from any source and, from a food science perspective, it is used to indicate caloric sweeteners.

  • Sources are saps, starches, fruits, and milk: Sugars may be concentrated saps (fluid, nectar) from plants such as sugarcane, sugarbeet, agave, maple trees, coconut palm tree, sorghum, and flowers. In addition, they may be produced by breaking down starches --- from corn, brown rice, barley, or tapioca. They may also be extracted from fruits and milk.

  • No matter where those sweeteners come from, they contain two major portions—sugar and water. Honey is about 80 percent sugar, maple syrup is 66 percent, agave is 69 to 77 percent, and table sugar is 99.9 percent. The remaining is mostly water --- liquid sweeteners contain from about 20 to 35 percent water and granulated sweeteners from 0.03 to 7 percent water. They do differ in how they affect the taste and the texture of foods.

 

  • Most sweeteners contain sucrose, glucose, and fructose in various proportions: Sucrose is a double sugar made up of two single sugars --- glucose and fructose --- stuck together. Because sucrose is split by digestive enzymes into glucose and fructose, our body recognizes those sweeteners as a blend of glucose and fructose. In most varieties of honey and agave nectar, fructose is present in higher amounts than glucose. Maple syrup, coconut sugar, cane and beet sweeteners have about the same amount of fructose and glucose. Starch-derived sweeteners such as barley malt, brown rice, tapioca, and corn syrups are fructose-free.

 

  • We can buy sugar in a variety of forms such as granulated, cubes, tablets, liquids, and syrupsSweeteners in solid or crystallized form, such as coconut, date, and table sugar, have over 90 percent sugars and provide about 15 calories per teaspoon. ​Sweeteners in liquid forms, such as in maple syrup, agave, and honey, have over 50 percent sugars and provide approximately 20 calories per teaspoon.

  • This definition excludes intrinsic and intact sugars—also known as "naturally occurring"—found in whole foods like milk and fruits. Be aware that "naturally occurring" is not the same as "natural." Let's take fructose to draw a comparison. Fructose sold in the store is a natural sugar; it is a synthetic sweetener made from corn or table sugar. The fructose in an apple is a naturally occurring sugar. Read two of my blog posts to learn exactly what a natural sweetener means:  

 
Beet Sugar
Beet Sugar

The most common beet sugars found on the market are (fine or extra fine) granulated sugar, (light or dark) brown sugar and confectioners sugar

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Non-GMO Beet Sugar
Non-GMO Beet Sugar

Non-GMO beet sugars & syrups are usually imported from Europe where genetically modified sugar beets are not grown. In the U.S., bioengineered sugar beets are grown and sent to sugar factories to be processed into refined sugar.

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Beet Syrup
Beet Syrup

An invert syrup made from beet sugar. Non-gmo, since it is produced in Europe.

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Cane & Beet Sugar Blended
Cane & Beet Sugar Blended

Some sugar marketers, such as United Sugars Corporation and Cargill, may combine cane and beet sugar. Some granulated, brown and confectioners sugars available on the market might be cane sugar mixed with beet sugar. Most store brands are a blend of both, unless the label states it is 'cane sugar'. By law, the use of the term 'sugar' in food labels is for cane or beet sugar only. Sugar manufacturers and distributors are not required to mention the source - if from beet or cane.

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Decorative Sugars
Decorative Sugars

Decorative sugars, such as pearl sugars, are made by crushing blocks of white refined sugar or by pushing sugar through an extrusion die. Shaped like irregular little balls, these sugars are typically used to decorate the tops of baked goods as they do not melt during the baking process.

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Blends of Sugars
Blends of Sugars

Some commercial sugars are combinations of refined sugar (sucrose from cane or beet) and sugars from other sources such glucose, lactose and coconut sugar.

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From Sap (Plant Nectar or Fluid), Starch, Fruit & Milk