Sugar and its Types: Which is the best to consume?

Sugar and its Types: Which is the best to consume?

One must have often wondered how many kinds of sugars are present on this planet. People must have told you to reduce white sugar consumption, but sugars in fruits are okay. Jaggery is fine, or sugar-free is fine. Substitute white sugar for brown sugar etc. Substitute this, substitute that. What we are trying to do here is, give you a complete guide of the kinds of sugars present (well, we have been attempting to gather the best available information out there from various sources) and compile it for you. Because our day runs on sugar. Healthier people avoid sugar. More thoughtful people know their sugar and make healthy choices. Here are some simple and easy-to-understand facts on sugar and sugar types, where they are used, and how they are used.

Think your Brown Sugar or dark brown sugar Again

We all have seen it far too often of asking for brown sugar when white sugar is lying on the table. We all feel that taste is not up to the mark of brown sugar, but we are okay to compromise since brown sugar is so damn healthy. This is absolutely a myth. It burns a hole in our pockets as well as burns a hole in our diet plan!

Brown sugar = White Sugar + some Molasses 

Molasses is brown in colour. Hence, we call brown sugar brown coloured white sugar.

Different types of sugar and common names of sugar

Glucose

Glucose is a monosaccharide, and it is a biochemistry term that means the molecular structure cannot be broken down further to create a tinier sugar molecule. Hence, they are the smallest sugar molecules.

Glucose is the primary source of energy for humans. We break down carbohydrates to create glucose which fuels most actions that keep us alive!

Fructose

Fructose, the second type of monosaccharide, is found in many foods and the human body. We convert fructose into glucose that provides energy to cells. It primarily converted into glucose by the liver and is commonly found in fruits, honey. 

Mishri Jaggery Corn Syrup Maltodextrin

Galactose

Galactose is another type of monosaccharide which is mainly found in lactose (a disaccharide). Galactose is converted by the body into glucose to provide energy for cells. The liver primarily metabolizes galactose.

Lactose

Lactose is the primary sugar found in milk products; a disaccharide, meaning it is made up of two monosaccharides; in lactose, it is made from glucose + galactose.

Maltose

It is a type of disaccharide found in certain plant foods, mainly grains, some vegetables and fruits, and two glucose molecules. The use of maltose as a sweetener in processed foods has become common as certain people (and manufacturers) move away from fructose. However, there's no research on maltose's health impacts in humans or replacing fructose-containing sugars with maltose.

Sugar/sucrose

It is the most common type of sugar and mostly called table sugar, which is found naturally in most fruits and plants. Table sugar consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose and is made out of sugar cane or sugar beets. This type of sugar is used in most of our daily food items such as candies, ice creams, pastries, cookies, biscuits, sodas, colas, packaged fruit juices, canned foods, processed meats, cereals, fruit loops, kinds of ketchup, various sauces. Anything processed, you will find this kind of sugar present in it. We Indians love this kind. 

Honey

Honey has fantastic benefits. Right from antibacterial to boosting digestion to reducing Kapha dosha, honey is an absolute master. Rightly, it is called Yoga Vahi, which means that it enhances the healing properties of other substances when taken together. However, few don't approve of honey.

Honey in Hot Water is Poison. Only Lukewarm Water, Please. But adding Honey to Herbal Powder increases the Power of Herbs.

- Never add honey to hot drinks or even to cakes/cookies while baking

- Ghee and Honey together in equal proportions is a sin

- People with acidity and acne should avoid consuming honey

- Honey is marginally better than sugar in terms of calories. For those on a diet, it is not a happy substitute 

Honey is lukewarm water is good. Hot water is bad

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

This sugar form is widely available and used in the United States of America and is produced from corn starch via heavy processing. It comprises fructose and glucose, and the composition is close to that of table sugar. 

It's produced from corn starch via an industrial process. It consists of both fructose and glucose. It is present in many food items such as soda, slices of bread, cookies, candies, cakes. It is the American cousin of our table sugar. 

Agave nectar

It is a liquid that ranges from golden to dark brown in colour. It's prepared from agave plants native to southern parts of the USA, Mexico and Latin America. It is considered refined sugar and is also known as agave syrup and is prepared by extracting the agave plant's juice and then processing it into a golden to dark brown syrup. The final syrup has glucose and fructose, but more significant amounts of fructose are present than glucose.

Natural Sugar

Natural Sugar is termed as sugars that are naturally present in a food item. Technically, all sugars naturally occur, but much of the sugars in food are refined or processed.

Fruit Sugar

This type of sugar is present in whole fruits. These are a type of natural sugars that can be refined. Typically when we talk about fruit sugar, we mean the sugars in full fruit, for example, sugars in mangoes, apples, chikoos.

Refined Sugar or Processed Sugar

Sugars that have undergone processing of any kind are known as refined sugar. Refining or processing means something naturally available is removed from the original food.

For instance, refining a sugar beet into white sugar means removing the fibre, molasses and other compounds, leaving "pure" white sugar. This is your regular white granulated sugar.

Unrefined or Unprocessed Sugar

Unrefined sugar is any sugar that has not undergone the refining process, and all nutritional values and compounds are intact. 

Powdered Sugar or Icing Sugar

Powdered sugar, aka icing sugar or confectioner's sugar, is a kind of table sugar that has been finely powdered. It's made of sucrose, just like table sugar and is a type of superfine sugar. And it is used for baking items.

Caster Sugar

Caster sugar is a smaller crystal compared to table sugar but larger than powdered sugar. It's made up of the same sucrose molecules and is refined or processed. This is again used for baking items and in confectionery.

Raw Sugar

Raw is a form of sugar extracted from sugar cane before it is processed. The sugar cane is "juiced", and this then juice evaporates, leaving sugar crystals behind. Raw sugar is also known as turbinado sugar and is usually a golden or light brown colour because of the molasses naturally present in the sugar cane. 

It is processed, but it's delicious and extracting the juice from the sugar cane fits the refined definition. The word "raw" is added in front of other types of sugars and "raw honey". In such cases, the term "raw" refers to the fact that the food/sugar hasn't come in contact with heat, for example, raw honey vs pasteurized honey. Raw sugar/ turbinado sugar comes in contact with heat at the time of processing.

Coconut jaggery vs date syrup

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made by boiling sap from maple trees. The fluid itself is a thin and light coloured liquid; after cooking, it thickens and concentrates. It's often considered a natural sugar (because maple sap naturally occurs in maple trees) and technically isn't refined (as nothing has been "removed" from the maple sap), but it's a processed product due to the boiling required.

Maple syrup can be golden, amber or dark in colour, depending on how concentrated the sap is. Maple syrup is primarily sucrose - aka glucose and fructose.

Date Sugar

Date sugar is made from dried, ground dates. Dates are a fruit that is typically sold dried (raw/ fresh dates are bright orange in colour). Most people picture a dark brown dried fruit when thinking of dates, but these brown dates are dried.

Date sugar is considered a more nutritious option because it retains the fibre and other nutrients present in the dried dates.

Date sugar falls into the categories of natural sugar that is processed (but not refined). It won't dissolve in liquid or melt like most other sugar varieties; however, there is date syrup, which could be used similar to different syrups on this list.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar, aka coconut palm sugar, is made from coconut palm tree sap. The water is evaporated from the fluid, creating a similar texture to granulated sugar, with a medium brown colour.

Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar is not the same as palm sugar, which is made similarly but from a different plant. It's considered a natural sugar and often classified as unrefined but processed (can argue that it is a refined sugar).

Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar is made by taking the sap from a coconut palm tree and boiling it into a thicker and darker liquid. It can also be called coconut syrup and is made in a very similar way to maple syrup. It differs from coconut sugar because it's a liquid.

Coconut nectar is the concentrated sap of a coconut palm tree, whereas coconut sugar is the crystals remaining after the liquid from coconut palm tree sap is evaporated. It's considered an unrefined natural sugar but processed (can argue that it's refined).

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is a golden brown coloured liquid sweetener made from brown rice. It's made by breaking down starches in brown rice into simple sugars (similar to how corn syrup is made from turning corn starches into sugar).

Brown rice syrup is primarily glucose instead of many other "syrup" options containing higher amounts of fructose. It's sometimes called rice syrup or rice malt syrup and can be both processed and refined.

Molasses

Molasses, aka black treacle, is a very dark brown and highly thick syrupy product created during the sugar cane refining process. Molasses are used to make brown sugar and also used as a sweetener and flavouring product. It's a refined and processed sugar alternative.

There are different types of molasses and molasses flavor, depending on the type and extent of processing. Blackstrap molasses are known to be high in specific vitamins and minerals.

The only TWO sugars acceptable in Moderation

Coconut Sugar is natural sugar from the sap liquid of Coconut Trees. Sap liquid is present in the flower of Coconut Trees. The sap is heated until the entire water is evaporated. Minerals such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium are present. It also contains antioxidants. Inulin is a fibre present in Coconut Sugar responsible for controlling the spike in insulin in the bloodstream.

Date Syrup is derived from Dates by soaking it in water and then grinding. It is rich in minerals such as Manganese, Copper, Potassium and Magnesium. It is also rich in fibre slightly more than Coconut Sugar making its Glycaemic Index (Spike in Insulin) slightly lesser than Coconut Sugar. Antioxidants are also present in this type of sugar.

While both Coconut Sugar and Date Syrup are better substitutes for refined Sugar but Sugar is Sugar. Avoid it as much as possible, and try using coconut sugar or date syrup to sweeten your food items.

Authored By:

Padmaja Raja


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published