SUGAR- AN EDIBLE CRYSTAL
DR. S. M. ALAM
Feb 27 - Mar 4, 2012
Sugar is a term for a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose and fructose characterized by a sweet flavor.
In food, sugar refers to sucrose, which primarily comes from sugarcane and sugar beet.
Other sugars are used in industrial food preparation. Sugar is also used as sweetener to our favorite beverages, breads, cakes, pastries and even as preservative to most food products.
In food, sugars refer to all monosaccharides and disaccharides present in food, but exclude polyols, while in its singular form, sugar normally refers to sucrose.
The other sugars are usually known by more specific names - glucose, fructose, or fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
People like sugar for its sweetness and its energy so some of the plants are grown commercially to extract the sugar.
Sugar is produced in 121 countries and global production now exceeds 120 million tons a year.
Approximately 70 per cent is produced from sugar cane, a very tall grass with big stems, which are largely grown in the tropical countries. The remaining 30 per cent is produced from sugar beet, a root crop resembling a large parsnip grown mostly in the temperate zones of the north.
The world produced about 168 million tones of sugar in 2011. The world consumed an average of 24 kilograms of sugar for every human being of all ages, equivalent to over 260 food calories per day per human being.
Sugar production and trade has influenced human history in many ways. In modern times, sugar influenced the formation of colonies, perpetuation of slavery, transition to indentured labor, migration and abuse of people, wars between 19th century sugar trade controlling nations, ethnic composition and political structure of the new world
The five largest producers of sugar in 2010 were Brazil, India, European Union, China, and Thailand. The largest exporters in 2010 were Brazil, Thailand, Australia, and India while the largest importers were EU-27, United States and Indonesia. Currently, Brazil is the highest per capita consumer of sugar, followed by Australia, Thailand, and EU-27.
Some studies involving the health impact of sugars are effectively inconclusive. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meta studies have shown directly contrasting impacts of sugar in refined and unrefined forms and since most studies do not use a population who are not consuming any free sugars at all, the baseline is effectively flawed.
There are articles such as Consumer Reports on Health that said in 2008, some of the supposed dietary dangers of sugar have been overblown. Many studies have debunked the idea that it causes hyperactivity, for example.
BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
Sugar, because of its simpler chemical structure, may raise blood glucose levels more quickly than starch. This finding suggests that this basic differentiation between starch and sugar is insufficient reason to segregate these two substances for controlling blood glucose levels in diabetics, the idea behind carbohydrate counting.
A more effective distinction could use that suggested by multiple meta-studies between free sugars and naturally-occurring sugars which do suggest different impacts on health.
OBESITY & DIABETES
Studies appear to conflict with some suggesting eating excessive amounts of sugar does not increase the risk of diabetes, although the extra calories from consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to obesity, which may increase the risk of diabetes.
As an overview to consumption related to chronic disease and obesity, the WHO's independent meta-studies specifically distinguish free sugars ("all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices") from sugars naturally present in food. The reports prior to 2000 set the limits for free sugars at a maximum of 10 per cent of carbohydrate intake, measured by energy, rather than mass, and since 2002 have aimed for a level across the entire population at less than 10 per cent.
A number of studies in animals have suggested that chronic consumption of refined sugars can contribute to metabolic and cardiovascular dysregulation. Some experts have suggested that refined fructose is more damaging than refined glucose in terms of cardiovascular risk.
Cardiac performance has been shown to be impaired by switching from a carbohydrate diet including fiber to a high-carbohydrate diet. Switching saturated fatty acids for carbohydrates with high glycemic index values shows a statistically significant positive association with the risk of myocardial infarction.
Other studies have found links between high fat and high glycemic index carbohydrates accelerate the development of cardiac pathology and pump dysfunction in hypertension despite there are no signs of diabetes and only a modest level of obesity, suggesting that the link between obesity and coronary heart disease should be shifted towards macronutrients and the high glycemic load typical of the "junk-food" diet.
The consumption of added sugars has been positively associated with multiple measures known to increase cardiovascular disease risk amongst adolescents as well as adults.
Studies are suggesting the impact of refined carbohydrates or high glycemic load carbohydrates is more significant than the impact of saturated fatty acids on cardiovascular disease.
A high dietary intake of sugar (in this case, sucrose or disaccharide) consumption can substantially increase the risk for heart- and vascular diseases. According to a new Swedish study from Lund University and Malm University College of 4301 persons, sugar was associated with higher levels of bad blood fat with a high level of small and medium LDL and reduced HDL blood fat. However, the amount of fat intake didn't affect the blood fats. As a side note, moderate quantities of alcohol and protein were linked to the good HDL blood fat.
It is suggested that Alzheimer disease is linked with the western diet, characterized by excessive dietary intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates (with a high glycaemic index) and animal products (with a high content of saturated fats) and decreased intake of unrefined seeds.
There are also prevention hypotheses that address the diet issue with mono-supplements of specific vitamins or drugs that do not show appreciable results.
Dietary pattern analysis, which considers overall eating patterns comparing those with Alzheimer's disease as compared to healthy controls using factor analysis, gives a major eating pattern for those with Alzheimer's characterized by a high intake of meat, butter, high-fat dairy products, eggs and refined sugar, while the other major eating pattern for those without Alzheimer's was characterized by a high intake of grains and vegetables.
One group of experimenters compared a normal rodent diet (19 per cent protein, 5 per cent fat and 60 per cent complex carbohydrate) with free water access against the same diet but with free access to a 10 per cent sucrose solution.
Their data underscore the potential role of dietary sugar in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease and suggest that controlling the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may be an effective way to curtail the risk of developing Alzheimer disease.
Concerning contributions to tooth decay, the role of free sugars is also recommended to be below an absolute maximum of 10 per cent of energy intake, with a minimum of zero. There is "convincing evidence from human intervention studies, epidemiological studies, animal studies and experimental studies, for an association between the amount and frequency of free sugars intake and dental caries" while other sugars (complex carbohydrate) consumption is normally associated with a lower rate of dental caries. Lower rates of tooth decay have been seen in individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance.
TYPES OF SUGAR
Sugars are chemicals within the class of nutrients called carbohydrates. All carbohydrates contain carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. The body converts most dietary sugars into energy to fuel its functions. Every bodily activity-breathing, thinking, sleeping, talking, eating, and moving-requires energy. Sugars, also known as saccharides, are often grouped into different types according to their chemical structure and complexity.
There are many different types of granulated sugar. Some of these are used only by the food industry and professional bakers and not available in the supermarket. The types of granulated sugars differ in crystal size. Each crystal size provides unique functional characteristics that make the sugar appropriate for a specific food's special need.
REGULAR OR WHITE SUGAR, EXTRA FINE OR FINE SUGAR
Regular or white sugar, as it is known to consumers, is the sugar found in every home's sugar bowl, and most commonly used in home food preparation. The food industry stipulates regular sugar to be extra fine or fine because small crystals are ideal for bulk handling and not susceptible to caking.
Fruit sugar is slightly finer than regular sugar and is used in dry mixes such as gelatin and pudding desserts, and powdered drinks. Fruit sugar has a more uniform small crystal size than regular sugar. The uniformity of crystal size prevents separation or settling of larger crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes.
BAKERS SPECIAL SUGAR
The crystal size of bakers special is even finer than that of fruit sugar. As its name suggests, it was developed specially for the baking industry. Bakers special is used for sugaring doughnuts and cookies, as well as in some commercial cake recipes to create a fine crumb texture.
SUPERFINE, ULTRAFINE, OR BAR SUGAR
This sugar's crystal size is the finest of all the types of granulated white sugar. It is ideal for delicately textured cakes and meringues, as well as for sweetening fruits and iced-drinks since it dissolves easily. In England, a sugar very similar to superfine sugar is known as caster or castor, named after the type of shaker in which it is often packaged.
CONFECTIONERS OR POWDERED SUGAR
This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about three per cent cornstarch to prevent caking. Powdered sugar is ground into three different degrees of fineness. The confectioner's sugar available in supermarkets is the finest of the three and used in icings, confections and whipping cream. The other two types of powdered sugar are used by industrial bakers.
As its name implies, the crystal size of coarse sugar is larger than that of regular sugar. Coarse sugar is recovered when molasses-rich, sugar syrups high in sucrose are allowed to crystallize. The large crystal size of coarse sugar makes it highly resistant to color change or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at cooking and baking temperatures. These characteristics are important in making fondants, confections, and liquors.
Another large crystal sugar, sanding sugar, is used mainly in the baking and confectionery industries as a sprinkle on top of baked goods. The large crystals reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance.
This sugar is raw sugar, which has been partially processed. It has a blond color and mild brown sugar flavor, and is often used in tea and other beverages.
BROWN SUGAR (LIGHT AND DARK)
Brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses syrup, which imparts a characteristic pleasurable flavor. Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments, and glazes. The rich, full flavor of dark brown sugar makes it good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, and other full flavored foods.
USES OF SUGAR
Sugar has been since long used as a sweetener in almost all cuisines. However, there are many more uses of sugar, which may fascinate and surprise us.
* Sugar can be added to one-liter water in a flower vase. When it dissolves, it will help nourish the stems and also keep the flowers fresh for a long time. Adding a tablespoon of vinegar as well will prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in the vase.
* Sugar crystals can be used as an abrasive and you can use it to scrub to clean your hands if they are coated with oil or grease. It is really effective in getting rid of oil or grease build up.
* Sugar, in the form of a sticky liquid, can act as an effective wasp trap. Take two ounces of sugar and add it in a little water; boil it to make it a sticky liquid. The wasps will be attracted due to the smell and when they go into the liquid to feed, they aren't able to come out.
* Anyone who has had a bad burn on the tongue while drinking hot coffee, tea or had hot food, will know the terrible stinging pain. However, immediately rubbing some sugar on your tongue will get rid off the stinging pain.
* Sugar attracts the dreaded cockroaches. However, mixing sugar and baking powder will actually help get rid of them. Mix equal amount of sugar and baking powder and see the roaches vanishing in a few days.
* Sprinkling fine sugar over homemade cakes will help keep them fresh for a longer time. It will also make the cakes more delicious.
* If you want to keep your biscuits from going soggy due to moisture and want to keep them fresh, sprinkle some sugar lumps in your biscuit tin. It will absorb moisture and keep your biscuits fresh.