Sugar includes white sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar, coffee sugar and raw sugar. White sugar is fully refined crystallised sucrose. Sugar is defined by the FSANZ Food Standards Code in Standard 2.8.1. The link to this information can be found at this link– http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx
Sucrose has a very high sweetness level and all other sugars are measured against it for a sucrose equivalent. For more information on this please refer to the following link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetness
Sugar can be found in our foods in many forms and there are different types of sugars based on their molecular structure. These include monosaccharides (simple sugars formed of one monosaccharide), disaccharides (two monosaccharides bound together) and oligosaccharides (3-10 monosaccharide units). Sugars can be made up of a single molecular structure or a blend of these.
Sugars are extracted from their raw material using methods such as physical extraction where they juice the sugar cane or sugar beet and then concentrate this juice into sugar or from chemical, enzymatic or acid reactions using starch as the base material. Sugar provides around 17 kJ/g of energy per gram. It doesn’t matt what type of sugar you are consuming, this remains the same. The only difference may be any vitamins or minerals that may exist in the sugar source that might provide small amounts of nutrition along with the kJ. An example of this is Black Strap Molasses vs white sugar. The Molasses contains low levels of sucrose but higher levels of vitamins and minerals vs just the pure energy of white sugar.
Function of Sugar in Processed Food
Sugars are added to foods for a variety of reasons outside of just sweetness and flavour. These include being used as an energy source, providing bulk, structure and texture to products such as sweet baked goods, jams and fillings and confectionary. It’s used as a sugar source for yeast fermentation in yeast raised products and for colour development in products undergoing a heat treatment such as baking. It’s used to add sweetness to beverages and confectionary and it also helps to preserve foods such as jam or marmalade.
Types of Sugar
The general term for “sugar” refers mainly to sucrose but we need to be aware of the other types of sugars commonly found in our foods today. There are many types of “Sugars” available for both the home cook and the food processer and these include –
- Glucose or Dextrose – Monosaccharide available in syrup or powder. Obtained from the acid or enzymatic hydrolysis of corn, potato, wheat or rice starch. Glucose provides around 0.8 times the sweetness of sucrose.
- Fructose – Monosaccharide. The natural sugar found in fruits such as bananas, honey and vegetables. Fructose is not commonly used in processed foods in Australia but can be found in imported products, especially those from the USA in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS which contains 55% fructose. HFCS is sweeter than regular white sugar so the usage in food products is slightly less compared to regular sugar/sucrose. Europe’s equivalent is Fructose-Glucose syrup or FGS.
- Lactose – Disaccharides. The natural sugar found in milk, commonly called Milk Sugar. Lactose is not commonly used as an ingredient for sweetening as it provides a low level of sweetness compared to sugar.
- Maltodextrins, Maltose (Malt sugar and Malt extract) and Dextrose are Disaccharides, produced from hydrolysis of starch with acids or enzymes. Maltose is also found in germinating cereals.
- Sucrose – Disaccharides. Sucrose is an intensely pure sweet carbohydrate which is broken down in the body into 50% Glucose and 50% Fructose. Naturally found in fruits and plants, sucrose is extracted commonly from sugar cane in Australia and in other regions around the world. Sugar beet is commonly grown in the USA. The resulting juice from sugar cane and sugar beet is processed into a number of forms including those below –
Sugar in Powdered, Solid or Granular Form
There are a wide variety of sugar products available globally in addition to the highly refined sucrose varieties. Many of these are made using traditional processes and are used to give local foods their unique flavour. Each of these sugars have unique characteristics and mineral contents which can give them different flavour profiles. Some of these are listed below but there are many more. If you would like more information I recommend going onto the Wikipedia website and doing a search (link below).
- Raw Sugar – Sucrose. Has some residual Molasses which provides colour.
- White or Refined Sugar – Sucrose. Fully refined and has the molasses removed.
- Castor sugar – Sucrose. Finer particle white refined sugar.
- Icing Sugar – Sucrose. Powdered white refined sugar.
- Icing Mixture – Sucrose. Powdered refined sugar with 3% corn starch added to prevent lumping.
- Brown Sugar both Dark and Standard – Sucrose. Made by blending white sugar with Molasses.
- Jaggery – Contains around 70% Sucrose. Concentrated sugar lump made from evaporating moisture by boiling date, cane sugar juice or palm sap. It contains all the original molasses and crystals and varies in colour from golden brown to dark brown.
- Palm Sugar – Mainly Sucrose. Produced from boiling the sap from various palm trees. It’s sold either as a liquid or solid crystallised lump.
- Moscovado Sugar – Sucrose. Produced by evaporating the juice from sugar cane. Very dark in colour, this sugar retains a high natural molasses content which darkens the colour and depth of flavour. It can be used to replace Brown or Dark Brown Sugar.
- Coconut Blossom Sugar – Contains around 80% Sucrose. Produced from the sap of the coconut flower buds of the coconut palm.
- Rapadura – Sucrose. Unrefined cane sugar from Sri Lanka, similar to Jaggery. It contains all of its original molasses content which gives it a dark colour with an excellent caramelised sugar flavour. Great for using in biscuits instead of white refined sugar. Deeper in flavour than Brown Sugar.
- Panela Sugar – Sucrose. Sourced from Central and Latin America it’s similar to Rapadura and Jaggery and can be substituted for Brown Sugar.
For more information on these sugars please see –
- Brown Rice Syrup or Rice Syrup is made from cooking rice starch with enzymes and evaporating the resulting liquid. A mix of glucose and maltose it has around 50% the sweetness of sugar. Brown rice syrup doesn’t contain fructose and is becoming more popular as a sweetener.
- Maple Syrup – Made from boiling the sap of maple trees, maple syrup is mainly sucrose. It contains a high level of minerals and provides 60% the sweetness of sugar. It’s very expensive so often used as a flavouring agent instead of a sweetener.
- Agave Syrup – Contains 90% fructose and is used in very small amounts as it’s around 150x the sweetness of sugar.
- Honey – Natural sweetener produced by bees from pollen providing around the same sweetness of sugar. Contains a combination of fructose and glucose at levels depending on the food source available to the bees. Honey production is regulated by Standard 2.8.2 of the FSANZ Food Standards Code. For more information please see the link below –http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx
- Glucose, Dextrose Syrup or Corn Syrup – Glucose. Made by the acid or enzymatic hydrolysis of starch, glucose syrup can be produced from different starch sources and will therefore contain differing amounts of glucose, maltose and oligosaccharides. Depending on the quality glucose syrups can contain up to 43% glucose. Glucose syrup is used in the confectionary industry and as a base to make high fructose corn syrup.
- HFCS – High Fructose Corn Syrup – Glucose and fructose. Made from enzymatically hydrolysed corn starch or corn syrup, HFCS is produced by enzymatically converting some of the glucose into fructose giving a higher level of sweetness. It’s not commonly used in Australia where we have an abundance of sugar from sugar cane but it does make its way onto our shelves in products imported from overseas, especially from America. Food manufacturers use HFCS as it has a higher level of sweetness than sucrose so they use less of it to obtain the same level of sweetness.
- Invert Syrup – Made by splitting sucrose into glucose and fructose by acid hydrolysis. Commonly used in confectionary, high boiled candy, and fondant.
- Molasses – Blend of sucrose, glucose and fructose. Molasses is the liquid remaining after the sugar cane juice has been boiled and the sugar crystals removed. Light molasses which is light in colour comes off the first boil and it provides around 70% the sweetness of sugar. Dark molasses – comes from a second boil is darker in colour and is less sweet. Blackstrap molasses – Thick black/brown syrup produced after the third boiling. It’s the thickest and darkest in colour containing the highest level of vitamins and minerals. Molasses is used in confectionary, bakery, savoury sauces, and is the base ingredient for the distillation of rum.
- Golden Syrup – A thick golden red syrup produced from partially hydrolysed sugar syrup. Used in bakery fillings, biscuits and other bakery items.
- Liquid Sugar or Sugar Syrups – Sucrose syrups for food manufacturing where powdered or granulated sugars may not handle so well. Product uses include confectionary, carbonated beverages, wine, liquors, juices and sports drinks.
- Treacle – Darker brown coloured liquid with a strong flavour and aroma. Produced by partially hydrolysing a sugar syrup mixture. Used in confectionary, puddings, and bakery.
For more information on these sugars please see –
Fruits and their forms –
Dried Fruits are dehydrated to remove the water contained in the fresh fruit. This concentrates the sugars and flavours in the fruit providing a product that has extended shelf life, is easy to transport and handle and provides a very high level of fruit sugars or fructose. Dried fruits are commonly used in products including bakery, confectionary, and cereals. Dried fruits can also be used as the base material for fruit purees and pastes.
Fruit Purees are made by pureeing different fruits, pasteurising them and adding a certain amount of sugar. Commonly used in bakery fillings, cereal based snack products, yoghurt, and frozen desserts to provide sweetness colour and flavour.
Fruit Preparations – Based on liquid or pieces, fruit preparations are designed specifically for dairy, bakery fillings, bakery and snack applications. They can contain other ingredients such as starches, gums, flavours, colours and sugars depending on the processing conditions they are to undergo and their finished product application.
Fruit Juice Concentrates – Fruits are juiced and then the juice is evaporated to form a concentrate. They can be added to all sorts of food and beverage applications including juices, juice drinks, cordials, yoghurts, ice creams, sorbets, tomato sauce and other condiments, bakery fruit fillings, confectionary the list goes on.
Other Natural Sweeteners –
Stevia (960) –
Stevia is a natural high intensity sweetener extracted from the Stevia plant and available in powder and liquid forms. The sweet component of the plant is steviol glycoside (stevioside and rebaudioside) which can provide 100-300 times the sweetness of sugar. This ingredient is used in very low levels for sweetness and is usually blended with a bulking agent such as erythritol. Depending on the purity it may have a bitter or liquorice back note. Stevia has no impact on blood glucose levels and is safe for use in a number of food and beverage applications including soft drink, beverages, gummy confectionary, chocolate, baking premixes and table sugar replacers. For more information on Stevia please see –
Inulin Syrups and Powders –
Inulins are produced by plants as their energy source. Inulin is found naturally in vegetables and fruits such as onions, bananas, asparagus etc. Mainly sourced from chicory root by large scale processers, Inulin contains a high level of dietary fibre but also has an intrinsic level of sweetness which can vary around 10-60% the sweetness off sugar. Inulin provides a number of additional benefits including increasing the dietary fibre content of foods, increasing the absorption of calcium, and working as a prebiotic by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Inulin is available in liquid and powdered forms and added to a range of food products including bread, cereals, biscuits, cereal bars, yoghurts, beverages, breakfast beverages, high protein beverages and infant formula. The average adult intake of inulin should be around 25g per day. The body will increase its tolerance level over time when consuming Inulin, if you increase your intake slowly you will minimising the side effects on the body. For more information on Inulin please see –
Polyols or Sugar Alcohols
Polyols or sugar alcohols are naturally occurring in a wide range of plant based foods including vegetables, berries, and fruits. For use in food they are most often produced by hydrogenation of different sugars. Sugar alcohols are FODMAPS and just like any sugar alcohols excess consumption, depending on your personal tolerance level, may result in gas, bloating or diarrhoea. If you increase your intake slowly over time your body will become more tolerant and the side effects will settle.
Food and Beverage products containing the following ingredients usually have a statement on the pack that says “excess consumption my result in a laxative effect”. This is true, so if you suddenly consume large amounts of products containing these ingredients, be aware there may be some unpleasant results. If you would like more information on the level of sweetness each of these provide when compared to sugar please look up this link and the table it contains – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetness
- Erythritol (968) – Is a zero calorie natural sweetener equivalent to 70% the sweetness of sugar. Erythritol is found naturally in fruits, mushrooms and other fermented foods. It has a clean sweet taste with no metallic aftertaste, it doesn’t contribute to dental caries or raise blood glucose or insulin levels. Erythritol is used to replace the bulk of sugar and is used in chewing gum, hard confectionary, beverages, frozen desserts, chocolate, powdered beverages, and baked goods. It’s also used as the bulking agent for sugar alternatives using Stevia.
- Isomalt (953) – Isomalt is a type of sugar alcohol made from sugar, providing around 50% the sweetness of sugar. It doesn’t contribute to dental caries or raise blood glucose or insulin levels. It has a very good synergistic effect with sweeteners such as Stevia and sucralose and as such is used in sugar free hard boiled candy, bakery, reduced sugar chocolate and low sugar pharmaceutical medicine. It’s also used by pastry chefs to create sugar sculptures as it doesn’t crystallise as much as other sugars when exposed to air.
- Malitol (965) – Providing 75 – 90% the sweetness of sucrose, Maltitol is a disaccharide commonly used in sugar free confectionary and ice cream, chocolate, protein bars, chewing gum, and syrups for pharmaceutical applications.
- Mannitol (421) – A common sweetener for diabetes as it has a low glycaemic index, Mannitol provides around 50% of the sweetness of sugar. Due to its cooling effect when consumed it’s commonly found in the outer layer of chewing gum and mint chewy candies.
- Sorbitol (420) – Used as a sugar substitute Sorbitol provides around 60% x the sweetness of sucrose. It provides kilojoules and is used in low calorie or diet foods. Too much Sorbitol will impact the consumer with a laxative effect. It has a slight cooling effect and is used in a range of food products including no sugar ice cream, protein bars, sugar free syrups, toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Xylitol (965) – Is a sugar alcohol with the same sweetness as sugar but it doesn’t raise your blood sugar or impact Insulin levels. Found in fruits and vegetables naturally and extracted from nature it works well with other high intensity sweeteners such as Stevia. It does have a cooling effect in the mouths so it’s most commonly used in products such as chewing gum, gummy confectionary, mints, protein powder shakes, mouthwash and toothpaste.
Artificial High Intensity Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are not naturally found in nature, synthetically manufactured and are significantly sweeter than sucrose. In food and beverage products they are used in combination to provide a similar sweetness to sugar, without the kJ content of sugar and at a fraction of the usage level of sugar due to their intensity.
- Aspartame (951) – Aspartame is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners available. It provides 180 – 250x the sweetness of sugar and is commonly used in diet soft drink, no sugar ice cream and chewing gum.
- Acesulphame Potassium (950) – Provides 200x the sweetness of sugar. Found combined with other sweeteners in no sugar ice cream, no sugar cordial and chewing gum.
- Cyclamate (952) – Used in no sugar cordial.
- Saccharin (954) – Has a bitter or metallic aftertaste at high concentrations. Artificial compound with a very high sweetness level at around 500x the sweetness of sugar. Commonly used in diet or low joule cordials, bakery, confectionary, mouthwash and toothpaste.
- Sucralose (955) – Sucralose is a chlorinated sugar that is commonly marketed as Splenda in supermarkets. It provides around 600x the sweetness of sucrose and can be found in low carbohydrate bars, sugar free syrups, sugar free ice cream, no sugar cordial, toothpaste and mouthwash.
For more information on these sugars please see –
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