Science Story: Zucker hat viele Namen 1

Science Story: Sugar has many names

Anna Lena Aufschnaiter,

Anna Lena Aufschnaiter has been enthusiastically involved in teaching and research at FH JOANNEUM since 2016. She teaches at several institutes and delves into the world of sugar in this blog post. She reveals the clever tricks used by the food industry to disguise the term “sugar”.

What is behind the many names and synonyms for sugar? Which products promise to be natural but are actually sugar bombs? Find out how you can recognize and expose sugar in food.

We have a complicated relationship with sugar. On the one hand, Austria is a "dessert nation", and on the other, too much can have negative effects on our health. Society's increasing awareness of the negative effects of sugar on health is leading consumers to actively scrutinize content information and ingredient lists. In response, the food industry is developing creative strategies to avoid the word "sugar" and instead resort to a variety of synonyms. Consumers then find themselves in an opaque forest of sugar synonyms. How does the industry proceed? Which sugar synonyms are used? Are these alternatives actually healthy? I would like to answer these and other questions.

Naturalness as an advertising medium

The food industry often uses terms such as honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup or coconut blossom sugar to advertise products as healthy, natural alternatives. However, many of these supposed sugar alternatives also contain large amounts of sugar. Honey
Honey tastes sweet, contains a lot of fructose and is valued by the industry (due to its sweetness). As honey comes from bees, many people think it is healthier. But in reality, honey is mostly sugar. The argument that honey contains many minerals and vitamins and is therefore healthy has only limited validity from a nutritional point of view: honey does contain some vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals, but in such small quantities that they are hardly relevant for the body.
Agave syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup and coconut blossom sugar
Agave syrup contains mainly fructose, maple syrup and coconut blossom sugar mainly sucrose, and corn syrup, known in the USA as "high fructose corn syrup", has a high fructose content, which has earned it a bad reputation. Brown sugar
Is basically an intermediate product in the production of white sugar and is still promoted on numerous websites as a "better" sugar alternative, although it is hardly any different from household sugar. The brown color is created either by coloring or by the molasses it contains, which is removed during the production of white sugar. This can give the impression that brown sugar is more natural and therefore healthier. The fact is, however, that the ingredients of the two types hardly differ.

Tips for recognizing sugar

The easiest way to find out whether and how much sugar a product contains is to check the list of ingredients on the back of the packet. If there are names ending in "-ose" or "-syrup", it is sugar. Another important clue is the order of the ingredients. Basically, the further forward an ingredient is, the more of it there is. However, if a type of sugar is at the end of the list, don't be fooled and take a close look at the nutritional information. The sub-item for carbohydrates "of which sugar" provides information about the sugar content of the food. However, this should not only be done for products that are known to be very sweet. Foods such as ketchup, vinegar, fruit yoghurts or juices can also contain unexpected amounts of sugar that are not recognizable at first glance.

Other sweeteners

There is often a lot of confusion when sugar substitutes or sweeteners are mentioned: in brief, sweeteners are additives that require EU approval. In most cases, sugar substitutes provide only half as many kilocalories as sugar and - when consumed in large quantities - have a laxative effect. These include xylitol, also known as birch sugar.
Sweeteners contain almost no kilocalories and have up to 37,000 times the sweetening power of sugar. Well-known examples are aspartame and acesulfame K.

It is crucial to recognize the different names for sugar so that conscious decisions are made when shopping. This way you can protect your own health. Need a little inspiration? Here's a cake recipe - low in sugar but high in flavor!

Low sugar recipe

Poppy seed soft roll slice (Lana Radaschitz, DIO 22)

Ingredients for 16 pieces:

6 eggs 80g sugar 60g grated hazelnuts 150g ground poppy seeds 20g cocoa pinch of salt vanilla sugar To spread/garnish:

Sour cherry jam for topping Melted chocolate as icing 1 cup of whipped cream Preparation: Beat the egg whites, yolks and sugar until frothy. Carefully and quickly fold in the snow and remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture into an approx. 24x24cm cake tin or into an equally large cake ring (= extendable metal cake rail) on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 160°C for approx. 40 minutes (test with a pin). Leave to cool well, cut the cake in half, fill with the jam and spread. Cut into approx. 16 slices and serve with whipped cream if desired.