Making Sense Of Sugar

What is sugar

Getting granular: what exactly is sugar

Sugar is a natural ingredient that has been part of our diet for thousands of years. Sugars are carbohydrates that provide energy for the body. The most common sugar in the body is glucose which your brain, major organs and muscles need to function properly. Some sugars are found naturally in foods (e.g. fruit, vegetables and milk) while others are used during processing and cooking – find out more on how sugars are used here. The body does not distinguish between the different types of sugar and breaks them down in exactly the same way. For example, the sucrose in an apple is broken down in exactly the same way as the sucrose in your sugar bowl.

The most common kinds of sugars

  1. Sucrose is often called table sugar. Made up from glucose and fructose, it is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beet and also naturally present in most fruits and vegetables
  2. Fructose and glucose are found in fruits, vegetables and honey
  3. Lactose is commonly called milk sugar because it is found in milk and dairy products
  4. Maltose is also known as malt sugar and is found in malted drinks and beer.

Sugars in your kitchen cupboard

There are of course lots of different sugars that you’ll find in your kitchen cupboard too. They are all forms of sucrose and include:

  1. Granulated sugar – a traditional sugar used for cooking
  2. Caster sugar – a little bit finer than granulated sugar, caster sugar is perfect for making cakes
  3. Icing sugar – used for dusting cakes and desserts and making butter icing
  4. Demerara – a brown sugar with a coarse texture that is great for crumble toppings
  5. Light brown sugar – often used to make fruit cakes and puddings with a fuller flavour
  6. Muscovado sugar – a dark treacle like flavour used in gingerbread

Have you ever wondered where sugar comes from? Head to our how sugar is made page.


  • Sugar is thought to have been first used over 5,000 years ago in the Polynesian Islands.
  • The body breaks down all sugars and starches to glucose. The brain requires around 130g of glucose each day to cover basic energy needs.