Sugar and Other Sweeteners
Do you often find yourself craving sugary foods and drinks? You are not alone, because all humans are born with a "sweet tooth." Historically, a preference for sweet foods gave our ancestors an advantage: high energy, sugar laden, carbohydrate-rich roots and plants helped them survive for longer periods during food shortages.
While we no longer a need to forage for food, we have retained a taste for it. The average per capita sugar consumption has risen 25 pounds a year over the past five decades.
Sugars are part of the simplest group of carbohydrates. Monosaccharides are the smallest, simplest sugars that form polysaccharides, which are longer chains of sugars. Glucose and fructose, which are monosaccharides, are the main molecules that provide fuel for the body's cells.
Other Types of Sugar
Common white sugar is pure sucrose and naturally colorless; brown sugar is sucrose with molasses. Other natural sweeteners include:
- Honey: Honey is a mixture of plant nectar and traces of natural enzymes produced by bees. Honey is 20 percent water, 30 percent glucose, 40 percent fructose, and 1 percent sucrose (all are different types of sugars).
- Maple Syrup: Maple syrup contains 33 percent water, 60 percent sucrose and naturally present particles.
- Dextrose: Dextrose is crystalline glucose made from starch, and is commonly used in sweetening baked goods and deserts.
- Maltodextrin: Made from starchy corn, potato, or rice, maltodextrin is used to sweeten many canned fruits and snacks.
- Corn Syrup: Corn syrup varies in the amount of dextrose present. Therefore, it is impossible for consumers to know the glucose content in the "corn syrup" on ingredient labels.
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup: This is fructose, or fruit-sugar-enriched corn syrup, that has been processed to hold as much dextrose as possible. Because it is inexpensive, it is frequently used to sweeten carbonated soft drinks and canned fruits.
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Sugar is so pleasing to the senses, but eating lots of sugar to food can have negative effects on your health.
Sugar is a carbohydrate. However, unlike fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, it is of a very simple and easily absorbable chemical structure, thus providing an instantaneous burst of energy.
At 16 calories per teaspoon, it provides a negligible amount of nutrients. This makes sugar a delicious, useless source of calories. Most nutritionists agree that sugar should be no more than 15 percent of your daily intake of calories.
Due to this concern over the caloric impact of sugar, low-calorie artificial and natural sweeteners are now available.
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