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Sugar doesn’t have to be “evil”

There is an increase in the consumption of sugar, as evidenced by the ever-increasing range of products on offer in the food industry. Customers want it to be nice and sweet. Anyone who wants to critically rethink the use of sugar in food production does not have to do without it completely.
Instead, they should ask themselves which sugar might be the most appropriate for the production of their goods. This includes the knowledge that industrial products can often be replaced by natural or less processed raw materials or products. In the case of bread, for example, this can be achieved by using honey or whole cane sugar.

From beets or tube
Sugar is made either from beets or from sugar cane. The two raw materials can be processed into both white and brown sugar.
Sugar beets are considered to be the sugariest plant in Europe. Sugar cane is a tropical grass plant. During processing, one hundred percent of sucrose is produced. Industrial sugar in Germany is mainly produced from beet, but sugar cane is the world’s leading raw material.

Desire for sweets is innate
Sugar is most of the times preceded by its reputation. In itself, however, it is nothing more than a carbohydrate and thus a source of energy for the body. Already in elementary school children learn how much sugar cubes are in a bottle of cola, that sugar makes them fat and sick, and that the seductive sweetness makes holes in their teeth. 100 grams of sugar have about 400 calories. Nevertheless, hardly anyone can get past sugar and often doesn’t even want to, because we are born with the desire for seductive sweetness. The Stone Age man himself couldn’t resist this temptation. According to statistics every German consumes about 35 kilos of sugar per year. Like all other stimulants – sugar is regarded as such – the dose makes the poison. More conscious use of it often does not help the consumer either. Sugar likes to hide behind other names or in convenience foods. It also serves as a flavor carrier because it intensifies the flavor of other ingredients.

Sugar has a technological effect
Sugar is important for bakers as well, albeit for different reasons: sugar not only makes the dough sweet, but also has a technological effect. It is even more important as the main ingredient in masses of cake and cannot simply be replaced there. Similar in the kitchen: the crust of a good roast is more appetizing when sugar is involved in its preparation. Caramelization plays a major role in the browning process in the pan or oven.

Would brown sugar be healthier?
Many processing operations cannot be carried out without sugar – this is what the prevailing opinion of those who regularly use glucose-fructose syrup, dextrose, honey or barley malt extract sounds like. Brown sugar is often used for sweetening as a supposedly healthier variant. Measured in terms of calories, it is just as rich as it is in its white form. And it is not better for the teeth either. Furthermore, the minerals contained in it are rather negligible. The so-called whole cane sugar is the only one that performs really well among the brown varieties: because there are only a few processing steps in its manufacture, many minerals are actually retained.

It also works without industry
Oh yes – industrial products are not necessary. And not just with whole cane sugar. The possibilities are endless. For food producers in the clean label sector, knowledge of the variety of sweet and healthy raw materials is indispensable. Many companies like to use honey in their search for sugar substitutes. However, honey consists primarily of sucrose as well. The same is true for many other natural products such as agave and pear syrup, apple sweetener or maple syrup. Nevertheless, these raw materials benefit from a good reputation with customers, despite their calorie content and ingredients being similar.

Sweetening with syrup and fruits
Coconut blossom syrup as a natural raw material with its taste of caramel and vanilla is somewhat different: according to studies, its value on the glycemic index is significantly lower than that of honey & co. Coconut flower syrup is used as a natural sweetener in good cereals, for example. Dried fruit is also good for our sweet tooth. Because of the concentrated sweetness resulting from the drying process, however, dried fruit should be used sparingly.

Synthetic products, no alternative
Since sugar is particularly rich in calories, consumers like to use synthetic sweeteners such as asparagus, saccharin or cyclamate. They are not, however, a suitable alternative to industrial sugar. As a substitute for natural sugars, sweeteners are certainly not suitable. Recent studies have shown that synthetic sugar can have a negative effect on the intestine and metabolism, and even more on weight gain. In older studies, many ingredients in artificial sweetness are also treated as possible cancer triggers. The same is true for the vegetable sweetener stevia with its stevioglycosides.

Man has needed many thousands of years to be able to produce sugar as the substance of his longing. Surely, he will never give it up again, diabetes or not. Even so, it is good that there are now many alternatives to industrial products that can enrich the lists of ingredients as healthy options. They all really don’t have to hide behind household sugar.


Like with all topics there is the possibility to discuss ideas in the forum.

About Markus Messemer

Seit 2007 intensiv mit dem Thema "CleanLabel" verbunden engagiert sich Markus Messemer für deklarationsfreundliche Rezepturen, Rohstoffe und Technologien.

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