Things You Should to Know About Sugar

Sugar is omnipresent in human lives today. From our morning cuppa to the dessert that puts a close to dinner, these crystals are everywhere in every household.

Here are a few interesting facts about sugar:

A short & sweet history lesson

It has been recorded that these shiny crystals were already in existence and use at the time that the Gupta dynasty ruled ancient India – around the 5th century AD. Sugar was called ‘Khanda’ or ‘Khand’, and this is the source of the word ‘CANDY,’ which has come to mean all things sweet and delectable. And forbidden.

Indian sailors carried their sugar supplies to all the parts of the world along their trade routes. But it was only as late as the 19th century that sugar was felt to be a ‘necessity’ in Europe, and the demand for this sweet ingredient grew exponentially. The quest for the quick buck by commercially producing sugar drove colonisation of tropical countries like India. As sugar production in those times was labour intensive, it gave birth to a supporting industry-slave trade in Africa.

Scientifically sugar-savvy

Chemically sugar is a form of carbohydrate! It is made up of bonded carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Funnily enough, not all sugars are sweet!

Sugar(s) are of two kinds depending on the bond between these elements:

Monosaccharides have the simplest chemical structures and are the fundamental units of carbohydrates. Glucose is one of the sweet, simple sugars.

Disaccharides are compound sugars formed by the joining together of two monosaccharides. Examples of these are maltose, sucrose, and lactose.

Common talk of sugar actually refers to sucrose.

Nothing sounds so sweet this way, does it?

How is sugar made?

There are two sources of sucrose that we use to make sugar:

Sugar cane is a grass cultivated in the tropical and subtropical parts of the earth. The stems of this plant are where the sweet sucrose is stored.

Sugar beet is cultivated in temperate regions with good rainfall. Beetroot, the tuberous root, contains high amounts of sucrose.

Juice is extracted and then clarified by heating with lime(calcium oxide) to destroy the enzymes. The result is a thin syrup which is then supersaturated by super-heating under vacuum to concentrate it. Sugar is crystallized from this concentrate.

The crystals are whitened by bleaching with sulphur dioxide or by a process called carbonatation (using calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide).

The scare about sugar

In modern times, much has been written and said about the ill effects of sugar consumption. According to the WHO, studies on the health impacts of sugar are conflicting and inconclusive.

Sugar is not addictive. It has no established relationship to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Some studies on links to diabetes suggest that eating sugar does not cause or accelerate the onset of this disease. Controlling diabetes means control of calories and that is why sugar as well as other carbohydrates are to be watched.

‘Sugar Rush’ and hyperactivity among children because of eating sweets and sugar are also considered myths. Studies show that the real effect of sugar is actually on parents with pre-conceived notions on sugar as a source of instant and uncontrollable energy. It does not agitate their kids!

The healthy principle is not to eat anything in excess- sugar is no exception. The WHO recommends that 10% of total energy intake should be from sugar. If this figure is reduced to 5%, there is additional benefit for dental health.

Organic sugar

As with all things organic sugar too can be produced using natural and biological methods of farming shunning the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Refined sugar is chemically cleaned to give it the sparkling white colour. In this process, it loses its outer brown coat of the minerals that sugarcane juice possesses. Refining this way supposedly makes sugar a table attraction.

On the other hand, organic sugar is not super-refined: it is slightly browned and has a richer flavour because it has not had its coat of minerals polished right off.

Organic sugar is also lower on the glycemic index than white refined sugar.

Sugar is not the poison that it is made out to be. Everything in excess is poison. Choose a good brand of organic sugar where you can trust that no chemical has touched even the sugarcane plant, the fountainhead of sucrose.

The next time you curl up with your refreshing cup of tea or bake a cake, make sure the sugar at hand is sweet and organic.