Sugar is used as a sweetener all over the world. People sugar all sorts of food and drinks to make them taste better. Sugar is often added to tea or coffee and to certain types of pastries. The food industry adds sugar to soft drinks and ice cream.
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, a substance that gives us energy. However, too much sugar can be harmful. It can cause obesity and tooth decay. People who consume too much sugar can be hyperactive. That is why some people use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.
Types of sugar
Our sugar is also referred to as sucrose. It is made up of two basic components. Glucose comes from the carbohydrates that we eat. Our body changes them to energy and transports them into the bloodstream. Fructose occurs naturally, especially in fruits, vegetables and honey. When we eat an apple or orange, fructose is changed into glucose and goes into our blood.
Lactose, or milk sugar, is found in dairy products. Some adults are not able to digest milk sugar and should not consume dairy products.
How sugar is produced
Sugar can be manufactured from two natural products: sugar cane and sugar beets. About 70% of the world’s 200 million tons of sugar comes from sugar cane.
Sugar beets grow in temperate climates of the world. Sugar contains the white roots of the beet. These beets are dug out of the ground and brought to a factory, where they are washed and cut. Afterwards they are heated to a juicy mixture. As the juice evaporates sugar crystals start to form. They are separated from the juice and processed further. Raw sugar is brown or yellow. It is chemically bleached to make it white. Then sugar is packaged and sold. The syrup that is eventually left over is called molasses.
Sugar cane is in the stalks of a tall plant that grows in the tropical regions. Brazil, India and China are the world’s largest producers of sugarcane. When the stalks are ripe they are harvested and crushed in a special machine that squeezes out the sugar liquid. The process after that is similar to the way sugar beets are processed.
History of sugar
Sugar has been known for a long time. Early inhabitants of Pacific Island used sugar thousands of years ago. Sugar cane was also grown in ancient India and in other cultures. Sugar reached Europe at the beginning of the Middle Ages. During the Age of Exploration navigators brought sugar to Africa and America, where it was planted in the southern colonies of the United States.