Types & Uses
The most obvious difference between types of sugars used in the home is colour. When sugar has been extracted from the juice of the beet or cane plant, a strong tasting black syrup (known as molasses) remains. When white sugar is made, the molasses are entirely removed, whereas brown sugars retain varying amounts of this natural syrup. The more molasses in brown sugar, the stickier the crystals, the darker the colour and the stronger the flavour. However, the presence of molasses does not change sugar's nutritional value.
As well as differences in colour and flavour, sugars vary in the size of their crystals.
- Granulated: all-purpose sugar for general use ('table' sugar)
- Caster: small grains ensure smooth blending to give even textures in cakes and other baked foods
- Icing: dissolves very quickly because of its very fine texture - useful for decorating cakes
Uses of sugar
As a sweetener: sugar is added to foods or drinks to make them taste more pleasant. For example, it balances the bitterness of coffee or reduces the tartness of sour fruit.
As a preservative: sugar is a natural preservative that binds water to prevent the growth of micro-organisms, thereby reducing food spoilage, as in jams and preserves.
As a bulking agent: sugars give texture to a variety of foods from jams to frozen products.
Sugar makes food taste good
We are born with a liking for sweetness, and most people continue to enjoy sweet foods throughout their lifetime. It would be a pity to forget that eating is also about pleasure!
Sugar improves the flavour of foods, and so widens the range of foods that people will eat. Without sugar, for example, many high-fibre breakfast cereals providing important nutrients would be inedible. Sour and bitter fruit also taste much better when sugar is added.
An expert committee report (FAO, 1998) commented: "Moderate intake of sugar-rich foods can also provide for a palatable and nutritious diet".