There are so many different varieties of sugar around. Gone are the days when you could tell someone to “pick up some sugar” and know that they’ll come home with the right type. There’s brown sugar, white sugar, caster sugar, Demerara sugar, agave syrup, maple sugar, coconut sugar and so many others. So when it comes to choosing a sugar that can be used for cooking, baking, flavouring and everything else, what is the best for you?
Although recent years have seen a crusade on sugar with the I Quit Sugar phenomenon, the truth is that it does have a role to play in our diet. When consumed in moderation, it supplies us with energy, keeps our blood pressure maintained, helps our mood and can help to stabilise blood pressure. Sugar is also derived from natural ingredients making it a safe product. The part of sugar that makes it unhealthy is fructose – long term and excess consumption has been linked to poor metabolism, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
To help you decide what sugar you should be eating, take a look at the following information on a range of products and tell us, what sugar do you eat?
White sugar is considered one of the purest foods in the world. It is made up of 99.9% sucrose (50% fructose, 50% glucose), refined from the natural sugars that occur in the sugar cane but with all ‘impurities’ such as mineral ash and polyphenols completely removed. It is commonly used in baking and flavouring.
Brown sugar is very similar to white sugar although it is made from 95% sucrose and 5% molasses. This makes it softer and a little more moist than white sugar. It is a favourite in baking as the molasses gives a toffee type flavour however this flavour can sometimes be a disadvantage for other uses. It contains slightly more nutrients and minerals than white sugar however they aren’t concentrated enough to make a significant health benefit.
Natural brown sugar “I.e. Demerara”
Natural brown sugar is slightly less processed than white sugar but there is no significant difference other than a change to the refining process. They do not offer any tangible additional health benefits to white sugar however are a more conscious choice due to the processing.
Stevia comes from a South American plant and has significantly less calories than other sugars. It is also believed to be beneficial for steadying blood pressure and reducing heart disease risk. It is however, a little bitter but much more bearable than other sugar alternatives. It can be used for baking and flavouring just as white sugar is making it a direct substitute.
Maple sugar is maple syrup boiled down to solids. It does however, have a high fructose content like white sugar. It has similar caloric value to white sugar however it is sweeter so people typically use less of it to achieve the same result.
The most significant benefits of coconut sugar is that it is low glycemic index (Low GI). This means that the glucose absorption takes longer giving you longer lasting energy. It also has a host of health benefits that other types of sugar don’t including minerals Iron, Zinc, Potassium and Calcium. The downside is that it does still contain fructose – the bad component of sugar so it should still only be consumed in very moderated amounts.