Sugars are divided into simple sugars and double sugars, depending on the size of the molecule. These types of carbohydrate are broken down easily in the body and are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This is why the body may have a ‘sugar rush’ or an instant burst of energy.
Simple sugars have a chemical name: ‘monosaccharides’ – mono means one. These simple sugars include glucose, found in ripe fruits and vegetables and fructose, found in honey and the cell walls of fruits.
Double sugars, or their chemical name disaccharides – di meaning two. This includes sucrose, found in raw sugar such as granulated sugar and caster sugar. Lactose is a milk sugar and is found in milk, yoghurt, cream and cheese. Maltose is found in cereals and is used to make beer and malt drinks.
Sugars can also be classified according to where it is found.
Free sugars are processed sugars such as granulated, caster and icing sugar. They also include the sugar found in honey and unsweetened fruit juices. These can also be added to food or can be found outside the cell structure.
Fruit sugars are found naturally inside fruit and vegetable cells, and can also be known as natural sugars.
A diet high in free sugars can lead to tooth decay and obesity. Sugar provides energy but contains no other nutrients. Artificial sweeteners are sometimes added to food products, e.g. sugar-free diet drinks. They add sweetness to the flavour of the food without increasing the energy content.
Sources of sugar in the diet: Processed foods such as breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes, pastries, jams, chocolate etc. also contain free sugar. It is recommended that only 5% of the energy we require should come from the free sugars. For example, if our energy intake/amount of calories is 2,000 for a day, our sugar intake should only amount to 100 calories.
Hidden sugars: The sugar we add to our food accounts for a tiny fraction of the sugar we eat. Many processed foods contain hidden sugar. Hidden sugars can be found in foods that you wouldn’t expect sugar to be found including savoury foods like salad dressings. Here are some of the hidden sugars found on food labels: corn sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, molasses, invert sugar.