Is Sugar Sugar?

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Is Sugar Sugar?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:38 pm

My own informal research on the topic over the years suggests that sugar is sugar no matter what the source. Be the sugar from a cane or a beet, found in fruit or honey, refined or not, brown or white or yellow, granulated or powdered, monosaccharide, disaccharide, trisaccharide or oligosaccharide, it's all still sugar, i.e. sweet, fattening and tooth-rotting.

Often I hear things like, "Well, that sugar is coming from an apple so it's healthier than granulated." I don't buy that. To my mind, putting 4-5 dates on my Shredded Wheat and getting about 28 grams of sugar has the same impact as putting about an ounce of granulated sugar over my breakfast.

To be sure, eating fruit and honey and the like has other health benefits, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals etc. Still in all, that sugar is there and it behooves me to beware of that sugar content.

If there is anyone out there who is smarter on this topic, I'd appreciate hearing your opinion.
And now what?
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Re: Is Sugar Sugar?

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:05 pm

As far as your body is concerned and for health aspects, what you say is basically true, however, there are different types of sugars and their applications in cooking, fermenting, etc. are not equal.
From Wikipedia:
Monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrates. They consist of one sugar and are usually colorless, water-soluble, crystalline solids. Some monosaccharides have a sweet taste. Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose, galactose, and ribose. Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides like sucrose (common sugar) and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). Further, each carbon atom that supports a hydroxyl group (except for the first and last) is chiral, giving rise to a number of isomeric forms all with the same chemical formula. For instance, galactose and glucose are both aldohexoses, but they have different chemical and physical properties. Frustose is fruit sugar.
A disaccharide is a sugar (a carbohydrate) composed of two monosaccharides. Sucrose, or cane sugar is the most common, but maltose and lactose are also disaccharides.
There are also polysaccharides, which are starches.
If one tries to substitute fructose or dextrose in a recipe for sucrose, the results may fail dismally, especially in making candies, frosting, fudge or baking, as the monosacharides have different physical properties, like melting, etc. Fermentation requires that the sugars be monosaccharides. In grape juice, if sucrose is added before fermentation, there is enough acid in the juice to break the disaccharide molecule into two monosaccharides, and the fermentation can continue. However, in making beer, where the is insufficient acid, the yeast must manufacture an enzyme called inverstase which will break it down. However, unfortunately for beer makers, inverstase tastses terrible and ruins the flavor of the beer. Sometimes, when I'm making my home made wine, I like to finish it off-dry. It is easier to ferment the wine to bone dry and sweeten before bottling. If I use cane sugar (disaccharide) it takes about 3-6 weeks for the sugar to convert to mono saccharides. If I drink the wine shortly after bottling, the wine has a more viscous mouthfeel and smells like sugar. However, after 6 weeks or so the wine is fine.
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Re: Is Sugar Sugar?

Postby Thomas » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:36 pm

I believe as far as our blood stream and pancreas are concerned, it's all sugar. Certain people need to watch all sugars, including starches that break down into sugars-- potato, corn, et al.
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Re: Is Sugar Sugar?

Postby Paul Winalski » Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:44 pm

Sugars from different sources can be different.

The conventional refined sugar is sucrose (a disaccharide consisting of one glucose and one fructose joined together). It's the same stuff whether from cane or sugar beets.

The sugar found in sweet fruits is mainly monosaccharides such as fructose and glucose, as well as some others. Ditto honey.

Then there are the unrefined sugars such as palm sugar (used in Indian and Thai cooking) and maple sugar. These taste different from each other and from refined sugar or unrefined (brown) sugar from cane or beets.

From a culinary point of view, they're not exactly interchangeable. For example, pure fructose tastes several times sweeter than sucrose, so you'd want to use less of it.

From a dietary and metabolic standpoint, they're all converted to or broken down into glucose.

-Paul W.
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Re: Is Sugar Sugar?

Postby Maria Samms » Sun Jan 21, 2007 2:24 pm

Hi Gary,

I have some experience with sugar...when I was pregnant with both children, I had Gestational Diabetes (same as regular diabetes, but lasts only while you are pregnant and goes away once you have the baby)

"Is Sugar Sugar?"

Technically yes...but they do effect the body differently, even though they are end up getting broken down into glucose:

An apple contains natural sugar: fructose. A potato contains natural starch. But these are whole foods containing much more than just isolated carbohydrates. Apples and potatoes grown in good soil also contain vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Such foods are complex carbohydrates, meaning that they are complete foods.

The problem comes in with processed sugar and processed starch. White table sugar has no nutrients. White bread is a processed, artificial starch. These are not foods - they do not nourish. We call them simple carbohydrates. Even when they are broken down to individual glucose molecules by digestion, it is completely different from the glucose end-product of a digested apple, for example. That's because apples don't simply break down into isolated glucose molecules. Other nutrients and co-factors are present, which are necessary for the body to make use of the glucose: enzymes, minerals, vitamins.

White sugar and white bread require enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and insulin from the body in order to act. And the action is one of irritation, removal, and defense instead of nutrition.

All enzymes and nutrients have been purposely removed from white sugar and white flour by processing. The result is a synthetic manmade carbohydrate, occurring nowhere in nature. The body regards such as a foreign substance as a drug.

Another way to look at it is this: when complex carbohydrates are broken down, the result is a usable glucose molecule. When simple (refined) carbohydrates are allowed to ferment in the digestive tract because they can't be broken down, the results are alcohol, acetic acid, water, and carbon dioxide. (Dufty p 183)

Not so usable, except for the water.

In addition to these by-products, simple carbohydrates do increase blood glucose by an unregulated, unnatural amount. And this is the real problem with refined sugar: the quantity of pure glucose suddenly taken in.

So don't stop putting those dates in your cereal :wink:
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