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Your Guide to Sugars - Part 2

January 28, 2015 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Your Guide to Sugars - Part 2

Your guide to sugars continued…In my last post, I discussed natural versus added sugar and whether some sugars are healthier than others. In this Part 2 post, I've outlined the different types of sugars found on ingredients lists of packaged food. You’ll also learn a bit about where each sugar comes from and how they’re used.

What are the different types of natural and added sugars and where do they come from?

  • White Table Sugar (or Granulated Sugar) is made from sugar cane or sugar beet juices. The juices are extracted, filtered, and crystallized to produce natural white granules.
  • Icing Sugar (or Powdered Sugar) is finely ground white table sugar with corn starch and an anti-caking agent added to prevent clumping.
  • Molasses is a sticky syrup with a strong flavor. It is a left over product from processing cane and beet sugars.   
  • Brown sugar is a general name for sugars made by combining white table sugar and varying amounts of molasses. The amount of molasses affects the colour and flavour found in different varieties. It can also be produced by boiling cane syrups until brown sugar crystals are formed. 
  • Turbinado-Style Sugar (or Plantation ‘Raw’ Sugar or Sugar in the Raw) is a type of brown sugar that has a light molasses coating.
  • Demerara sugar is a very moist and sticky brown sugar with a thick molasses coating. 
  • Sucanat Sugar is extracted from cane sugar in an early step of table sugar production. It forms a grainy dark coloured sugar and has a thick molasses coating.
  • Honey is made by bees using flower nectar. The varieties of honey depend on the flower the bees take nectar from.
  • Maple syrup (and maple sugar) is from the sap of maple trees. Maple trees produce sweeter sap than any other tree. The sugar is made by heating up the syrup until it crystalizes.
  • Palm syrup (and palm sugar) is made from the sap of palm trees. The sap is boiled to make syrup or crystalized into a solid to make sugar. 
  • Agave syrup is produced from the sap of agave, a desert plant related to the cactus family.
  • Corn syrup is made from corn starch and acid or enzymes.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or glucose-fructose is made from corn syrup. Extra enzymes are added to make it sweeter than corn syrup. It is inexpensive to produce and used widely in food manufacturing.

Bottom line: Natural and added sugars are absorbed the same way by the body. For best overall health, it’s important to limit the amount of added sugars you have in your diet. To find out more about healthy eating call 8-1-1 or 604-215-8110, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to speak with a Registered Dietitian. This is a free service. You can also visit our Food & Nutrition section or HealthLink BC for more on healthy eating.

Related Blogs: 

Your Guide to Sugars - Part 1
A Closer Look at Sugar Alternatives

Recommended Resources:

Food Labels: Nutrition Information and Ingredients
Canadian Diabetes Association: Sugars and Sweeteners
Health Canada: Interactive tool: interactive nutrition label

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