When it comes to baked goods or a cup of tea or coffee, most people turn to white or brown sugar to provide that irresistible taste of sweetness. But, while granulated and brown sugars are found in many kitchens, there are many different types of sugar used in cooking and baking.
Although all sugars are sweet some varieties are great for the icing, others can give baked goods that sweet crunchy texture, and some are ideal for sweetening your morning coffee.
In this article, we’ll explain 11 different types of sugar and tell you the best ways to use them in your favorite recipes.
Benefits of Sugar
Most people admit that they need to cut down their sugar intake and know the dangers of eating too much sugar. While eating less sugar can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of dementia you shouldn’t cut sugar completely.
In fact, eating the right type of sugar can have major benefits for your entire health. Unexpected benefits of sugar are:
1. Sugar Is Important for Brain Health
Our brains need a constant supply of energy, and according to experts, your brain uses 400 calories of glucose every day. However, only a quarter of those 400 calories should come from your daily sugar intake (source).
To experience the benefits of sugar for your cognitive function it’s important to know where you get your sugar from. Natural sugars found in honey and fruit can boost your brain health, but sugar found in processed food won’t do you any good.
2. Sugar Keeps You Energized
Along with fat, glucose is the body’s favorite source of energy, and it comes from the breakdown of sugar. As your body starts to process glucose it sends a signal to the pancreas to start releasing insulin.
Insulin then transports glucose to all cells where it’s then metabolized and turned into energy. So, without glucose from sugar, you wouldn’t have the energy to perform your daily tasks.
3. Sugar Can Improve Your Mood Instantly
Researchers have found two sweet-receptor genes that can predict your preference for sweets, so it’s safe to say that love for sugar is in your DNA. But regardless of the genes, eating sugar activates the pleasure center in the brain which causes a dopamine rush.
The release of dopamine, also known as the happy hormone, will promote positive feelings and give you an instant mood boost.
Popular Types of Sugar
When you think of sugar, the basic table sugar is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But, while white sugar is commonly found in every home, many other types of sugar are also often used for cooking and baking.
From white granulated sugars to cane sugar to liquid sugar here are 11 popular types of sugar you need to know about.
Turbinado is a minimally processed sugar derived from sugar cane. This type has larger sugar crystals compared to granulated sugar and has a darker color that looks a lot like that of light brown sugar.
Although they look similar, the biggest difference between turbinado sugar and dark brown sugars is that molasses isn’t added. Due to this fact and light processing, turbinado sugar retains a light caramel flavor and is used in baked goods and to sweeten teas and coffees.
Often called table sugar or refined sugar, granulated sugar is the white sugar most people use every day to sweeten their teas and coffees. Made from sugar cane and sugar beet, granulated sugar has fine sugar crystals that don’t harden together as most other sugars do.
Muscovado sugar is the least processed of all types of sugar and made from sugar cane from which the molasses isn’t removed. Sometimes called Barbados sugar, this variety has a dark brown color, sticky texture, and a rich flavor.
While muscovado sugar can be a good substitute for brown sugar, it has a stronger flavor and intricate sweetness.
Also known as nib sugar or hail sugar, pearl sugar is made by compressing white sugar to prevent it from melting even at high temperatures. This variety has an opaque color and rough and hard texture.
Since pearl sugar holds its shape and doesn’t melt it’s mostly used inside baked goods or to decorate cookies and pastries.
Sanding sugar has coarse and larger crystals that don’t easily melt when exposed to high temperatures or moisture. This type of sugar has a crunchy texture and the granules are usually colored in many different hues.
Since sanding sugar reflects light and looks like it’s sparkling, it’s mostly sprinkled onto cookies or other baked goods and used for decorating.
Light Brown Sugar
Light brown sugar is made by adding a small amount of molasses to refined white sugar. The extra moisture from molasses gives the light brown sugar a wet and sandy texture, but this variety is less gooey than muscovado sugar.
Light brown sugar has a delicate caramel flavor and is best for savory dishes and baked goods.
Cane sugar is a minimally processed type of sugar that is made solely from sugarcane. Compared to granulated sugar, cane sugar has slightly larger crystals and darker color, but it can be used in any baked goods or recipe that calls for granulated sugar.
Often called powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar is essentially white sugar that has been ground into a fine powder. Confectioner’s sugar is typically mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent it from clumping.
Powdered sugar is mostly used for decorating baked goods but it’s also ideal for making icing and frosting. You can even make confectioner’s sugar at home by mixing one cup of sugar with one tablespoon of cornstarch.
Dark Brown Sugar
Dark brown sugar is made in the same way as light brown sugar but has a darker color and more molasses added to it. This variety has a subtle caramel or toffee flavor and can be used in baking or in any other recipe that calls for light brown sugar.
Also known as superfine sugar or bar sugar, caster sugar is basically granulated sugar with superfine crystals. Since the crystals are so fine, this sugar dissolves much faster than standard white sugar and is used for making cocktails or syrups.
Demerara sugar is a minimally processed variety of raw cane sugar that looks a lot like turbinado sugar but has rougher crystals. It has large amber-colored granules and a stronger molasses flavor.
Demerara sugar is a good substitute for brown sugar and you can use it to sweeten tea or coffee, or cookies and cakes toppings.
Less Popular Types of Sugar
Sugar goes by many different names, those listed above are some of the most commonly used varieties. If you want to limit the amount of added sugars in your diet, you should know if and how much sugar a food actually contains.
Listed below are less popular types of sugar, some of which are hidden within processed food:
- Treacle sugar
- Raw sugar
- Glucose solids
- Golden syrup
- Yellow sugar
- Icing sugar
- Florida crystals
- Buttered syrup
- Corn syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Beet sugar
- Glucose and fructose
- Corn syrup solids
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown sugar
- Rice syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Refiner’s syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Panela sugar
- Cane juice crystals
- Date sugar
- Grape sugar
- Golden sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Invert sugar
- Maple syrup
- Ethyl maltol
- Malt syrup
- Barley malt
- Fruit juice
- Carob syrup
- High fructose corn syrup HFCS
What Is the Healthiest Type of Sugar?
Although there are many different varieties of sugars, all of them have a similar nutritional value and are made from sucrose, glucose, and fructose.
The truth of the matter is that one type of sugar isn’t necessarily better than another! However, the amount of sugar you consume will determine the impact it has on your health.
Honey, for example, has an even blend of glucose and fructose and other micronutrients that might provide health benefits. However, eating too much honey isn’t healthy and might lead to serious health problems down the line.
At the end of the day, for most people, one type of sugar isn’t healthier than another. The best thing you can do for yourself and your health is to limit the amount of all sugars and be mindful of the recommended daily intake.
The basic table sugar with white crystals is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions sugar. But, while white sugar is most commonly used in drinks, baked goods, or savory recipes, there are many other sugar varieties you should know about.
Muscovado sugar, for example, can give baked goods a nice butterscotch flavor, while powdered sugar dissolves quickly and is great for syrups. In the end, all sugars will add a touch of sweetness to any dish or drink, but each variety has its special uses.