Sugars are natural sweetening agents that are primarily added to food to improve taste. Sugars also add volume, texture, colour, moisture, provide the base for yeast fermentation, reduce the freezing point in ice creams and frozen desserts and also increase the boiling point which is important in the manufacture of sweets. They are also important in food preservation as the high sugar content such as in jams, marmalades and fruit squashes increases the osmotic pressure, which in turn prevents microbial growth and food spoilage.
There are many types of sugars that are available and food manufactures use more than one type of sugar in the preparation of processed foods, so it is very difficult to figure out how much sugar a food actually contains. This article enlightens readers about the various types of sugars that are commonly used in processed foods.
Known as Gudor Godd, it is a traditional Indian sweetener that has been used for centuries. Jaggery is prepared by evaporating the water from sugar cane juice or from the sap of palm trees like coconut, date, palmyra or tad or sago and is sold as blocks, liquid or granules. Jaggery consists of 65 per cent to 85 per cent of sucrose, 10 per cent to 15 per cent isolated glucose and fructose and 2.5 per cent minerals particularly iron, copper and zinc. Coconut palm jaggery or madachem god is rich in calcium. Unlike sugar, which is refined, jaggery is unrefined. Consumption of jaggery is believed to help support immune, liver and digestive health, as well as help prevent anaemia. However, there is no scientific evidence available to substantiate these claims.
Honey is a natural unrefined sweetener that is produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers. Honey is considered of great medicinal value and has been used in home remedies and alternative medical systems in the treatment of various ailments. The medicinal properties of the honey vary depending upon the flowers from which nectar is obtained. Honey contains 38 per cent of fructose, 31 per cent of glucose, 2 per cent of sucrose and 17 per cent water along with small amounts of B-vitamins, vitamin C and organic acids. It also contains small amounts of many minerals including potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium, calcium, sulphur and phosphorus. Honey also has antimicrobial properties and contains antioxidants.
This is a natural sugar that is prepared by evaporating the sap of the coconut palm. This sugar is not refined and has a granulated texture and brown colour. Like table sugar, coconut sugar also contains 70 per cent to 80 per cent sucrose. But unlike regular table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup which supply ‘empty’ calories, coconut sugar in addition to sugar contains small amounts of minerals like iron, zinc, calcium and potassium and antioxidant polyphenols. It also contains a type of dietary fibre called inulin which may slow glucose absorption and explains why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index as compared to table sugar. For cooking purposes, coconut sugar has a very low melt temperature and an extremely high burn temperature so it can be used baked products in place of sugar.
Although jaggery, honey or coconut sugar provide small amounts of vitamins and minerals as compared to table sugar, they are still high in sugars and hence calories. These can be used to replace refined white sugar in foods and drinks, but in moderation.
This sweetener is obtained from the sap of the maple trees found in USA and Canada. It is a sweet syrup that is eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast or porridge. Maple syrup contains about 67 per cent sugar. It also contains small amounts of minerals especially manganese and zinc.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener prepared from corn starch and contains 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose. HFCS is a liquid that is used to sweeten numerous products such as yogurts, baked goods, canned and packaged foods, candies, jams, condiments, many beverages, and other sweetened foods. HFCS is more stable than sugar and provides the same intensity of sweetness as sugar and blends with other ingredients and mixes easily with beverages. It has many functional properties that increase the shelf life and improve texture of foods and beverages.
Available as a thick liquid or in solid granules, liquid glucose is used primarily in commercial food production as a sweetener, thickener and moisture-retaining agent. Liquid glucose is manufactured by breaking down glucose molecules in starchy foods such as corn potatoes, barley, cassava or wheat through hydrolysis. This chemical reaction yields a concentrated, sweet product with a high glucose content that does not crystallise. Liquid glucose is used in the manufacture of candy, beer, fondant, canned and prebaked goods.
To be continued. . .
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 21 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on [email protected])