There are two main sources of sugar: sugar cane and sugar beet.
Raw sugars comprise yellow to brown sugars made by clarifying the source syrup by boiling and drying with heat until it becomes a crystalline solid. Raw beet sugars result from the processing of sugar beet juice, but only as intermediates en route to white sugar. Types of raw sugar include demerara, muscovado, rapadura and turbinado. Manufacturers sometimes prepare raw sugar as loaves rather than as a crystalline powder, by pouring sugar and molasses together into moulds and allowing the mixture to dry. This results in sugar-cakes or loaves, called jaggery or gur in India, pingbian tang in China, and panela, panocha, pile, piloncillo and pão-de-açúcar in various parts of Latin America.
White refined sugar has become the most common form of sugar. White refined sugar is typically sold as granulated sugar, which has been dried to prevent clumping.
Granulated sugar comes in various crystal sizes - for home and industrial use - depending on the application:
- Coarse-grained sugars, such as sanding sugar (also called "pearl sugar", "decorating sugar", nibbed sugar or sugar nibs) adds "sparkle" and flavour for decorating baked goods, sweets, cookies/biscuits and other desserts. The sparkling effect occurs because the sugar forms large crystals which reflect light. Sanding sugar, a large-crystal sugar, serves for making edible decorations.
- Normal granulated sugars for table use have a grain size about 0.5 mm across
- Finer grades result from selectively sieving the granulated sugar
- caster (or castor) (0.35 mm), commonly used in baking
- superfine sugar, also called baker's sugar, berry sugar, or bar sugar are favoured for sweetening drinks or for preparing meringue
- Finest grades
- Powdered sugar, 10X sugar, confectioner's sugar (0.060 mm), or icing sugar (0.024 mm), produced by grinding sugar to a fine powder.
Brown sugars come from the late stages of sugar refining, when sugar forms fine crystals with a significant molasses content, or from coating white refined sugar with a cane molasses syrup. Their colour and taste become stronger with increasing molasses content, as do their moisture-retaining properties. Brown sugars also tend to harden if exposed to the atmosphere, although proper handling can reverse this.
Preserving sugar is a kind of sugar used for making marmalades, jams and preserves using fruits that are naturally high in pectin (such as plums, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, greengages, damsons and Seville oranges). The large sugar crystals dissolve more slowly than those of standard granulated sugar and do not settle in the bottom of the pot or rise up as froth to the surface. This reduces the risk of burning and the consequent need for stirring. It also allows impurities to rise for easier skimming. Because it minimises scum, it helps to make jams (UK) / jellies (USA) clearer.
Preserving sugar differs from gelling sugar, because the latter contains pectin while preserving sugar is 100% sugar.
How much does one cup of sugar weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|225 grams||8 ounces|
|200 grams||7 ounces|
|125 grams||< 5 ounces|
Every ingredient has a cups to ounces or grams conversion table. Search for the ingredient, cup to weight conversions are at the end of each ingredient page.
According to UK National Health Service guidelines, added sugars should not make up more than 10% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. This is about 70 g for men and 50 g for women but it varies depending on: your size, your age and how how active you are. In short, it's probable that we should cut down on the amount of sugar we consume.
Cutting down on sugar
These tips may help you cut down on sugar:
- instead of sugary, fizzy drinks and juice drinks, go for water or unsweetened fruit juice (remember to dilute these for children, to further reduce the sugar)
- if you take sugar in hot drinks or add it to cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether
- check nutrition labels to help you pick the foods with less added sugar, or go for the low-sugar version
- choose tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup
- choose wholegrain breakfast cereals, but not those coated with sugar or honey
Alternatives to sugar
- Xylitol was first made from Finnish birch trees in the early 1900s. It's naturally produced by most living things including trees, fruits, plants, animals and even people, xylitol being the alcohol form of xylose.
- Unlike other natural or synthetic sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health.
- Stevia is a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), which is native to Paraguay, and mostly grown there and in Brazil.
- Steviol glycosides are high intensity sweeteners, 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose. Stevia comes in liquid or powder form and it has no calories, contains no sugar or carbohydrates.