The preference for sweet things is in our genes and is encouraged by many convenience products and foods, as they often contain much more sugar than consumers suspect. The preference for sugar is therefore not surprising. In addition, our central nervous system cannot function without glucose.

Sugar is also found in carbohydrates

Nevertheless, you don’t need to eat sugar, because the body breaks down complex carbohydrates, such as those found in vegetables and wholemeal bread, into glucose. During this conversion process, the sugar enters the blood slowly and evenly. With pure sugar, things are different:

“When I eat carbohydrates in the form of sugar, my blood sugar level rises particularly quickly. My body reacts by releasing insulin, which means that my blood sugar level drops sharply. And that means that I quickly get hungry again and want to eat the next few calories straight away.” Andrea Danitschek, Bavarian Consumer Center

Energy boost from glucose

For packaged foods, the nutritional values ​​must be given in a list. Only monosaccharides and disaccharides are listed under the heading “of which sugars”. The types of sugar are absorbed into the blood very quickly. Glucose is the fastest to enter the blood: within a few minutes, this monosaccharide causes blood sugar to skyrocket. Glucose is found in large quantities in grapes, as its name suggests, and is also called glucose (Greek: sweet) or dextrose (ie “turns polarized light to the right”). Glucose is also a component of disaccharides such as milk or table sugar.

Complex carbohydrates are better

Multiple sugars such as starch do not have to be listed as sugar on the nutritional information tables on food packaging. They are also called complex carbohydrates and have little or no sweet taste. They cause the blood sugar level to rise more slowly after eating because they have to be broken down before they can be absorbed into the blood.

Does sugar make you sick?

Too much sugar can not only make you fat and lead to obesity: sugar is also often associated with a number of other diseases. For example, many doctors suspect a connection between sugar consumption and the risk of heart attacks. However, the only scientific evidence is that sugar causes tooth decay.

What is the maximum recommended amount of sugar per day?

According to the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), the amount of sugar consumed per day should provide less than five percent of daily energy. That is about 24 grams for adults – or about eight sugar cubes. That is usually the amount in a glass of lemonade or a fruit yogurt.

Confusing manufacturer information on sugar content on products

As a rule, sugar is not explicitly declared on many products. Instead, manufacturers write “sucrose”, for example, which is another name for cane or beet sugar. Or they state glucose syrup: a starch product made from corn, wheat or potatoes that is cheaper to produce than household sugar.

Usually, as many different types of sugar as possible are used. The reason: In the ingredients list, the ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity. If there is a lot of sugar, it should be listed first. If you use different types of sugar, they end up at the bottom of the ingredients list.

If the manufacturer advertises “free from granulated sugar” or labels the product as “sugar-free”, this does not mean that the food does not contain sugar.

Is there a difference between different types of sugar?

There are now numerous varieties on the market, for example vanilla sugar, rock candy or caramelized brown sugar. However, the nutritional content of the different types of sugar differs only slightly. Sugar is an empty energy source without vitamins or fiber.

On the one hand, this is bad for your figure, and on the other hand, it is detrimental to your nutrient absorption because you eat less of the more nutrient-rich products if you prefer such sweet snacks, explains Andrea Danitschek from the Bavarian Consumer Center.

Instead, she recommends satisfying your sugar cravings with fruit. Because then “you get the sugar and the energy, but at the same time you also get all the other benefits, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.”

But at the same time, nutrition experts warn against consuming too much fruit: Caution is also advised with fructose (fruit sugar). Studies from the USA have shown that excessive consumption of fruit sugar contributes significantly to obesity, especially in children and young people. “The brain does not perceive fructose, and the lack of satiety leads to consumption of large quantities,” says Prof. Dr. Olaf Adam, President of the German Academy of Nutritional Medicine.

Numerous products contain fructose in large quantities, including soft drinks, mayonnaise, cakes and biscuits.

Sugar Guide: The Difference Between Different Types of Sugar

Classic household sugar or granulated sugar is the double sugar sucrose. Household sugar is one of the very few foods that does not have to have a best-before date due to its shelf life.

  • Fructose and glucose: Fruit sugar (fructose) and grape sugar (glucose or dextrose) are simple sugars and components of numerous complex sugars. The so-called blood sugar in humans is glucose.
  • Invert sugar: Invert sugar is a sugar mixture that consists of half fructose and half glucose. It is obtained in the food industry through the hydrolysis of sucrose. Honey is a naturally occurring invert sugar because it contains both types of sugar – although often not in a 50:50 ratio.
  • Refined sugar: Refined sugar is the actual household sugar that you buy in stores. It consists of more than 99 percent sucrose. Sucrose is mainly found in sugar beets and sugar cane.
  • Sugar cubes: Sugar cubes were invented in 1840: moistened refined sugar is pressed into shape and then dried again.
  • Caramel: Caramel is made by heating sugar. Consistency and color depend mainly on the length of time it is heated. Recent research has shown that caramel consists of at least 4,000 substances. One reason is that the sugar changes significantly when heated.
  • Molasses: Molasses is a syrupy waste product from sugar production. It forms the basis for the production of alcohols or yeast cultures and is also used as animal feed. Sugar cane molasses is needed for the production of rum.
  • Lactose: Lactose is a disaccharide and a component of milk; it often forms the basis of tablets. Many non-Europeans in particular have an intolerance to lactose after infancy (so-called lactose intolerance).

Are alternative sweeteners such as birch sugar etc. better?

Alternative sweeteners such as erythritol, birch sugar or stevia are trending. They do not cause tooth decay and contain significantly fewer calories than table sugar.

The Bavarian Consumer Center advises in its special on sugar [externer Link]: “Used in moderation, they can be suitable for people with obesity who do not want to do without very sweetened foods and drinks. However, they are not a ‘natural’ alternative to sugar. […]. From the consumer advice centres’ point of view, it makes more sense to enjoy normal sugar or alternatives such as honey or beetroot syrup in moderation and to gradually lower your own sweetness threshold.”