Food & Drink

What are different types of sugar?

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Be aware of sugar's presence in a wide variety of foods and learn about different type of sugars to manage your diet better
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Know your sugar!

When early American housewives got ready to bake, they by and large had two sources for a sweet taste: tree-sweetenin' maple syrup or sugar and bee-sweetenin' honey.

Occasionally, castor sugar - a finely-granulated white sugar - would come from England by ship. But it was expensive and saved for the finest cooking. Castor sugar, although granulated, came in a cake rather like a large cake of soap or a small loaf of bread. To cook with it, the housewife had to grate or scrape what she needed off the cake then wrap it tight or put it in a tin, to keep mice away.

Maple Sugar and Honey

Just like the cane and sugar-beets that produce most of the different types of sugar available today, maple sugar and honey had to go through processes called refining. In the case of maple sugar sap collected in early spring had to be boiled down to a gritty residue. Gallons of sap were needed to make a pound of sugar, and the huge metal pans in the sugar-house used firewood by the cord.

Honey, after the bee stings were treated, had to be separated from its wax comb and whatever insects, bits of bark and other forest trash that accumulated in the wax.

Triangle Trade

A critical leg of the Triangle Trade (molasses/raw cane sugar, slaves and raw and manufactured materials going from American ports to Africa to the West Indies) soon brought the practice of sugar refining to the Atlantic coast communities of North America.

More raw-sugar materials were turned into rum than into granulated sugar. Rum was a far more profitable trade good. Because raw sugars can carry molds and other contaminants, U.S. law now requires that so-called raw sugar be cleaned or refined before it can be sold.


Types of Sugar

What are the different types of sugars now available on grocery-store shelves?

 Sucrose: made from sugar beets or sugar cane; and

 Fructose: coming from fruits and now available in powdered form.


Sucrose comes in dark and light brown sugars, white granulated, superfine and confectioners' forms. Brown sugars have a heartier taste. Refining was stopped so that they reflected more of the brown suger molasses foundation. Now colors of brown sugar are kept consistent by the use of caramel coloring. White granulated sugar is the staple we use for most sweetening and baking. Superfine sugar, also known as bar sugar, can be used to dissolve quickly in drinks and in making meringues.

Confectioners' Sugar

Confectioners' sugar is granulated sugar crushed into a powder with a little cornstarch to keep it from hardening. Some old recipes call for icing sugar, and more recent ones say powdered sugar. Both are names for confectioners' sugar.

Sugar Ingredients

Sugar has many more forms and names you will discover when reading nutrition labels. Many prepared foods contain sugar. European visitors to the United States uniformly comment on the sweetness of American breads and rolls, and their statements are seldom compliments. Knowing the names of sugars as ingredients can help reduce sugar in our diets, which is especially important for children and critical for anyone who is diabetic.

Diabetes123 gives an excellent list of the ingredients of sugars and information on their sources and functions. Regulating sugar intake is greatly helped by knowing the other names of sugars like Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Invert Sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Sucrose and Xylitol.

If you can take a few minutes to read nutrition labels amid the chaos of family grocery shopping, you will find sugar as an ingredient in a surprising number of foods like peanut butter, canned tomatoes, salsa, canned chicken soup, deli-meats and pancake mix. Many juices and beverages also contain sugar.

Sweet is one of the best tastes in the world. Nearly everyone can remember a sweet childhood treat. Being conscious of sugar's presence in a wide variety of foods and knowing what are the different types of sugars help us reserve sweetness for the sweets.

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