Not all sugars are created equally

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Max Lkhagvasuren | Hawkeye

By Manvir Kaller

Whether it’s to cut unnecessary calories from your diet or to find other ways to sweeten certain foods, there are alternatives to sugar. Before deciding to switch to an alternative its best to know what sugar actually is.

Max Lkhagvasuren | Hawkeye

Sugar naturally occurs in some things, such as fruit, and is commonly added to most foods. The average American consumes two to three pounds of sugar each week.

The most commonly used sugar is the “regular” or white table sugar.

There are many different types of refined, granulated sugar derived from sugar cane or beets. Cane and beet sugars are made mainly of sucrose and come in varying crystal sizes that provide unique functional characteristics appropriate for a specific food’s special need.

The other kind of white sugar is the fructose sugar, also known as the crystalline sugar. Crystalline fructose is slightly finer than white sugar and is used in dry mixes such as flavored gelatin and pudding desserts and powdered drinks.

Another type of sugar is brown sugar. Common brown sugar is a very processed and refined white sugar that has had the surface molasses syrup added back in, which gives it a distinct flavor.

Brown sugar can also be made of palm sugar. Palm sugar is made form the sap of the Palmyra palm.

Sugar can also be made from date palms, sago sap, and coconuts. There are also sugars that come in liquid form. The most common liquid sugar is corn syrup. Today, high fructose corn syrup has replaced pure sugar as the main sweetener in most carbonated beverages, including Coca Cola and Pepsi.

High fructose corn syrup is hidden  in many unexpected products such as salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, and even whole wheat bread. High fructose corn syrup is often one of the first ingredients in cake mixes, cookies, peanut butter, sauces, breakfast cereals and commercially baked goods.

Maple syrup is also used as a sugar and sweetener. This viscous amber liquid has an earthy sweet taste. Maple syrup is made from the sap of the black or red maple tree. Maple syrup has fewer calories and more  minerals.

There are many types of sugar that can be used as an alternative to the “regular” white sugar. Artificial sweeteners are a popular alternative because they are low in calories and have better flavor then regular sugar. Stevia and agave nectar claim to be a lower calorie, tastier, and more healthful option.