Quite literally the icing on the cake, sugar, in all its varied forms, is a tempting treat
Words: LAURA ROWE Illustrations: VICKI TURNER
For something with little flavour and no vitamins, minerals or proteins, it’s a wonder that sugar plays such an important part in our daily diets. But thanks to its effectiveness as a sweetener, flavour enhancer and energy source, and its relative cheapness, it’s hard to imagine living without it. Spooned into coffee, sprinkled on fruit or whipped into fluffy meringues, there are so many ways we consume it.
While historically we turned to honey, our main source of sugar now comes from sugar cane, which was originally grown in the East before commercial agriculture began in the tropics, fuelling a burgeoning slave trade.
Sugar cane and sugar beet compete as our top sources of sugar. Cane can be served at various stages of refinement, while beet can only produce refined white sugar.
The cane is filled with a sweet pulp – the liquid is extracted and refined in stages, finally producing white sugar. Sugar beet, a relative of beetroot, which can be grown in more temperate climates, is our second biggest source of the stuff.
Wherever its origins, though, highly refined sugar has become the new bad boy of the food world, with nutritionists in their masses calling for avoidance and substitution. It’s in part thanks to the rise in consumption of processed foods and fizzy soft drinks, packed with hidden sugars (such as corn syrup) and artificial sweeteners, that many are now turning to alternatives. But if you can’t resist a spoonful or two of the white stuff (and who of us can?), then make sure you look out for the Fairtrade symbol to ensure your sugar has been grown and harvested in an ethical way.
Extracted from Taste: The Infographic Book of Food by Laura Rowe, illustrated by Vicki Turner (Aurum Press)