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What is table sugar?

There are many types of sugars we consume on a daily basis, from the sugars naturally found in fruits, vegetables and milk, through to sugars like raw sugar, table sugar, molasses and glucose, which are added to foods and drinks in cooking and packaged foods.

Each type of sugar will differ slightly in chemical makeup, but how your body digests and metabolises them will be the same. They will all provide the same amount of energy per gram that you eat.

Table sugar refers to the standard white sugar that you use in your cooking, baking or cup of tea at home. The scientific name for table sugar is sucrose. Sucrose is made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule, making it 50-50 glucose and fructose. The sucrose that makes up the table sugar we know is extracted from the sugar cane plant - see our resource Where Does Sugar Come From for more info.

What’s the difference between raw sugar and table sugar?

If you’ve ever had a cup of coffee, no doubt you’ve had a choice of adding raw sugar or white table sugar to your brew, but what’s the difference between these two popular sweeteners?

Both raw sugar and table sugar are extracted from the sugar cane plant but go through slightly different processes to become the raw and white sugar we are familiar with. Raw sugar goes through the process of growing, harvesting, shredding and milling sugar cane to extract the juice, which is then put through filtering and boiling processes to remove most of the molasses and colour. The end product here is raw sugar. To make white sugar, raw sugar continues through the manufacturing process where it is washed, filtered and crystallised to produce the finer, white table sugar you see on supermarket shelves.

What is the chemical composition of table sugar?

Table sugar is sucrose which is a type of disaccharide made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule. The elemental formula for sucrose is C12H22O11. For more info on disaccharides, see What are Carbohydrates and Sugars? 

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What is table sugar used for?

Besides adding sweetness to your coffee and baking, table sugar, or refined sugar, is used by food manufacturers in various food and drink products due to its unique properties that add to the appearance, texture and shelf life of foods. Sugar helps to add colour to baked goods, and also acts as a preservative, flavour enhancer and bulking agent. Sugar is also used in many sauces, syrups and beverages to help increase viscosity, giving a thicker consistency and better mouthfeel. Learn more about the Functions of Sugars in Food and Drinks.

References

  • Goldfein KR and Slavin JL. (2015). Why sugar is added to foods: food science 101. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14: 644 – 656.
  • Clemens RA, Jones JM, Kern M, et al. (2016). Functionality of sugars in foods and health. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 15(3): 433-470

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