The Sugar Process

We all know that sugar is sweet, and that most of our favourite foods wouldn't taste as yummy without it. But what exactly is sugar? Is it a vitamin? Does it grow wild in warm, tropical countries? Well, for those in the dark, here are some Frequently Asked Questions about sugar, the various types available, how sugar is produced and how it affects our health.
1. What Is Sugar
Sugar, or sucrose, is a form of carbohydrate, which is an important source of energy for the body. Sugar occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, but occurs in the greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beet (a large, pale brown root crop), from which it is separated for commercial use.

2. Is There A Difference Between Sugar From Sugar Beets And Sugar Produced From Sugar Cane?
There is no difference. Sugar cane, a giant grass, grows in warm, moist climates and stores sugar in its stalk. The sugar beet thrives best in a temperate climate and stores sugar in its white root. Sugar from both sources is produced in the same fashion as all other green plants produce sugar - as a means of storing the sun's energy.

3. Is There Only One Kind Of Sugar?
No. There are various kinds of sugar, which include the sugars made by plants during photosynthesis, milk sugars and honey. Although there may be a whole range of substances that make up the family of sugars, they all contain the same nutritional value.

4. So What Kinds Of Sugar Are There?
There are a number of different sugars, including glucose (found in fruits, vegetables and honey), lactose (known as milk sugar), maltose or malt sugar (found in beer and malted drinks), sucrose (which comes from sugar cane or beet and also occurs naturally in some fruits or vegetables) and fructose (found in fruits and honey).

5. What Is Raw Sugar?
Raw sugar is a tan to brown, coarse granulated product obtained from the evaporation of clarified sugar cane juice. Raw sugar is processed from sugar cane, is about 98% sucrose and is not sold to consumers.

6. Why Do Many Processed Foods Contain Sugar?
Apart from its taste, sugar plays many other roles in cooking and baking. It adds texture and colour to baked goods. It is needed for fermentation by yeast, which causes bread to rise. Sugar also acts as a bulking agent (ice cream and baked goods) and preservative (jams and fruits). In non-sweet foods (salad dressings and sauces) sugar enhances flavour. It also balances the acid content in tomato and vinegar-based products.

7. Is Sugar Nutritious?
Sugar is pure carbohydrate, an important nutrient that supplies energy to the body. Your body does not distinguish between the various types of sugar and thus treats them all in essentially the same way, whether they occur naturally in a food or are added. All carbohydrates, including sugars, provide 4 calories (16 kilojoules) per gramme.

8. How Does The Body Use Sugar?
During digestion, all carbohydrates, including sugars and starches (e.g. rice, noodles and bread) break down into single units of sugar, which, in turn, are converted to glucose. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to the body’s cells to provide energy or is stored for future use. Glucose is the only nutrient that the brain and red blood cells can use for energy.

9. Does Sugar Have More Calories Than Other Nutrients?
No. All carbohydrates, including sugars, provide 4 calories (16 kilojoules) per gramme. Protein provides the same amount. Fats, on the other hand, provide 9 calories (37 kilojoules) per gramme while alcohol provides 7 calories (29 kilojoules) per gramme.

10. Does Excess Sugar Cause Diabetes?
Researchers have yet to discover why diabetes occurs. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that sugar does NOT cause it. Recent nutritional guidelines from the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation state that most diabetics can enjoy moderate amounts of sugar each day as part of mixed meals.

11. Does Excess Sugar Lead To Heart Disease?
Many lifestyle and hereditary factors play a role in the development of heart disease. These include obesity, a high intake of fat (especially saturated fats), a low intake of fruits and vegetables and a lack of physical activity. Sugar, however, has NOT been identified as a risk factor for heart disease.

12. Does Sugar Cause Hyperactivity In Children?
No, it does not. A recent study examined the effect of sugar on the behaviour of certain children, who were selected because their parents believed their kids reacted negatively to sugar. The study, however, found no difference in the behaviour of these young ones when they ate higher-than-normal amounts of sugar compared to when they consumed diets low in sugar.

13. Can Sugar Give You Cavities?
Tooth decay is caused by many factors, including hereditary tendencies and the make-up and flow of saliva. Sugar and other carbohydrates also play a part, as bacteria on the teeth use carbohydrate to make acid. Over time, these acids can break down the tooth enamel to form cavities. Thus, a frequent intake of carbohydrate-heavy foods or drinks may increase the chance of tooth decay by not allowing saliva sufficient time to neutralise these acids.


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