The functional properties of sugar allied to its much appreciated taste make it a product widely used in both the domestic kitchen and the industrial kitchen.
Some functional properties of sugar:
- It is an anticoagulant and is therefore used to stabilise the egg white and other proteins in many cakes and sweets
- It stabilises delicate compounds responsible for the colour and flavour of fruits and vegetables and is therefore used in preserves
- It combines with pectin resulting in jellies with good mechanical properties
- It gives rise to very concentrated solutions that oppose the growth of microorganisms
- It is an excellent substrate for many fermentations
- It provides suitable texture to drinks, ice creams, etc.
- It keeps well for a long time, when under normal environment conditions
What’s the difference between white sugar, brown sugar and honey?
White sugar is a practically pure substance called sucrose; brown sugar is a mixture of sucrose with some coloured natural impurities; molasses is a mixture of three simple sugars (sucrose, glucose and fructose) and a considerable amount of coloured impurities; honey is also a mixture of sucrose, glucose and fructose, as well as some coloured impurities. The impurities of the brown sugar give, besides the colour, a characteristic flavour. These impurities are harmless and have a practically zero nutritional value. Molasses contains, although in small quantities, proteins, vitamins and mineral salts.
Why is it said that sugar is fast energy?
Sugar is an important source of energy that is quickly assimilated, making energy available to the body in a matter of minutes.
Other carbohydrates, such as starch (a fundamental component of bread, potatoes, etc.), have a slow digestion and cannot therefore provide the quick availability of such healthy energy at breakfast, and fats are more difficult to digest than the starch. Although the fats can provide more than twice the energy provided by the starch or sugar, per unit mass, the fact is that after digestion there is a feeling of tiredness that only dissipates much later.
Is there any relation between sugar, obesity and cardiovascular disease?
Excess calories from all types of food increase the risk of obesity, which in itself is a risk factor for other chronic diseases.
Consuming too many calories from a variety of sources, including sugar, fat, carbohydrates, protein and alcohol, may increase the risk of obesity, a risk factor for chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The levels of daily physical activity, combined with other lifestyle or even genetic factors, influence all these risks.
By ingesting excess calories, our body stores this excessive energy in glycogen or fat for later use.
Why is it said that sugar contains empty calories?
It is sometimes said that sugar provides empty calories, to emphasise that besides energy sugar does not provide anything else. Our body needs the energy from food to maintain its permanent biological activity and produce work. Three families of nutrients provide this energy: carbohydrates (sugar, potatoes, bread, legumes, pasta, rice, etc.), fats or lipids (butter, vegetable oils, lard, etc.), and proteins. Vitamins, mineral salts and water have no energy value.
As sugar does not contain vitamins, minerals, or fibre it cannot be the only food that is essentially caloric in the diet: it is necessary to include fruits, vegetables, seeds, some fats, etc.
The key to balance, health and well-being
The secret to a healthy life is to be careful with the diet and to practise physical exercise on a regular basis. To achieve this purpose, it is important to give up bad habits and have free time for ourselves.
Having a balanced diet is recommended because it helps prevent coronary and cardiovascular diseases caused by sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, among other pathologies. In addition, eating well will make us age better, keeping skin, bones, hair and organs healthier. If we add a sport activity to the healthy diet, the results are even more beneficial: reduction of the blood pressure, control of cholesterol, less tension and stress.
What does it mean to eat well?
Eat everything, but in a balanced and unrestricted way to avoid deficits and nutritional deficiencies. The body obtains from food and its own bodily reserves the energy needed to develop the vital functions and muscle movements. Food contains nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Reserves as a source of energy
The body has the ability to store energy reserves that it obtains directly from food in the form of fats or carbohydrates. Both fuels are consumed separately, depending on several factors, such as the intensity and duration of physical exercise, diet, humidity and body temperature.
The myth of sugar and the increase in weight
There is no consistent evidence that sugar is the single most important cause of weight increase, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Obesity or the increase in fat mass is caused by a greater consumption of calories than spent. Excess energy is stored in the form of fat, which over the months or years translates into excess weight. It is important to point out that the lack of physical exercise also helps obesity.
Sugars as body fuel. Which foods do we need?
The body essentially needs sugars or carbohydrates for two reasons:
- They are the best fuel for the cells, as they provide the chemical energy needed for bodily functions, exercise, digestion and nutrient assimilation.
- They are part of the nucleic acids: DNA and RNA, which serve to conserve and transmit the genetic information of cellular membranes.
Carbohydrates are not all the same (potatoes, rice, whole grains, biscuits, sugar, pasta, fruit…), nor do they produce the same effect on the body. Hence the importance of distinguishing the different types of sugar:
- Simple: fructose (present in fruit), glucose (fruit, honey, some vegetables), galactose, lactose (present in milk), sucrose (sugar) and maltose (obtained by hydrolysis of starches).
- Complex: glycogen, starch, dextrin and cellulose.
The difference between one and the other is the speed with which they are absorbed in the intestines. Simple sugars are quick-absorbing against the complex that are slow Sugar thus plays an important role in our body, providing the necessary energy.