In theory it seems simple to locate if a food has sugar among its ingredients, but in practice it is somewhat more complicated. Sugar has a thousand faces and hides on labels under different names.
- Corn syrup
- Agave syrup
Seven different types of sugar that can go unnoticed
It is made up of a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose and is the most widely used sweetener in the world. It represents 75% of all added sugars, of which, it is estimated that 20% is added by the consumer as table sugar and 80% would be the “invisible sugar”. This “invisible sugar” is what the industry adds to products such as soft drinks, bakery products, candies, juices or dairy products. Depending on its purity, sucrose is classified into different types, such as brown sugar (85% sucrose) and white sugar (99.5% sucrose). Yes, you read correctly, brown sugar and white sugar , in fact, are first cousins.
It is found naturally in honey (38%) and also in fruits, vegetables and vegetables in different proportions. It is the most soluble and sweet sugar of natural sugars and is used especially in confectionery products for its high sweetening power without crystal formation. In general, the consumption of fructose naturally in the fruits and vegetables themselves does not imply any problem. However, its excess consumption as a sweetener in processed products can lead to intestinal disorders and diarrhea. It also favors synthesis of triglycerides (ie, fats) in the liver. In the long run, this could lead to metabolic diseases such as obesity or type II diabetes.
DEXTROSE or D-GLUCOSE
It is also found naturally in honey (31%) and in fruits, vegetables and vegetables. Its sweetening power is less than that of sucrose. In food technology, it is mainly used to make beverages and bakery products and confectionery. Although glucose is found freely in the blood and used in cells as a source of energy, we have good news: it is not necessary to consume glucose directly. Under normal conditions, our organism can obtain the simple molecules of glucose from the division of complex carbohydrates. Unless we perform high intensity and long duration sports (cycling, marathons), from vegetables and cereals our body can get the glucose it needs.
They are obtained by hydrolysis (breaking) of the starch. Although its flavor is less sweet than that of the previous sweeteners, they are widely used by the industry for its interesting technological properties. They have dispersing, moisturizing, thickener and texturizing capacity. They are used in sausages, sauces, butters, margarines, cakes, infant formulas or products for athletes, among others.
CORN SYRUP WITH HIGH FRUCTOSE CONTENT
In North America it is replacing sucrose as a sweetener. It is a syrup with high concentrations of fructose (up to 90%) with a sweetening power greater than sucrose. It is used in the production of soft drinks, bakery, fruit preserves, dairy products and confectionery. Its use is controversial because different studies refer to the increase in the prevalence of obesity in relation to the increase in consumption of these syrups.
SYRUP OR NECTAR OF AGAVE
It is a type of sugar that is obtained from the Agave tequilana plant with a sweetening power 1,5 superior to sucrose. Although it has a lower glycemic index, its fructose content is high (70%) and therefore, in no case is it a healthy alternative to sugar, as it is sometimes tried to show.
POLYALCOHOLES: sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, mannitol, erythritol
They are also known as polyols or “sugar alcohols.” Although some are naturally present in different fruits, it is usual to add them to foods as sweeteners since they have characteristics appreciated by the industry and the consumer, for example:
- They do not cause cavities.
- They cause a certain sensation of freshness in the mouth.
- The glycemic response is lower, so they would be well tolerated by diabetics.
- Although its energy value is similar to sugars, its absorption is lower and the average caloric value is 2.4 kcal / g instead of 4 kcal / g.
Polyalcohols are used as additives in products such as chewing gum, candy, ice cream, desserts, pastry products or confectionery. Dietary guidelines for people with diabetes are especially appreciated.
Despite these possible advantages, polyalcohols present some drawbacks such as the laxative effect if consumed in excess. On the other hand, like any other sweetener, they favor the preference for sweet taste which can induce to consume other sugary products. You can learn more about what happens when consuming sugar in this video:
As we have seen, sugar in excess is not healthy … but neither are your cousins! The best way to avoid both sugar and its substitutes is to consume fresh products in their natural form: fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, dairy products, meats, fish, etc.
When we go to the supermarket and an ultra-processed product falls into our hands, take out the magnifying glass! We should not obsess, since all these types of sugar are safe and are admitted in the legislation, but knowing how to identify them in order to reduce their consumption should be our goal.