1. Taste – the sweet taste makes many food more palatable and also interacts with other ingredients to enhance or lessen certain flavours.
2. Colour and flavour. Caramelisation is fundamental to the colour of certain food products and can’t happen without the addition of sugar. The “Maillard” reaction which gives browned foods their labour is used in sauces, sweets, breads, jams and dessert wine. It also provides a special flavour for chocolate, coffee and meat.
3. Bulk and texture. Sugar bulks out foods and impacts “mouthfeel”. It affects the texture of baked goods, ice-cream, jams and jellies.
4. Fermentation. Sugar aids in the fermentation of many common foods and drinks including yoghurt, vinegar, sour cream, wine, beer, bread, cheese, soy sauce and sauerkraut.
5. Preservation. Sugar plays a crucial role in reducing water activity in foods which helps preserve them and extend their shelf-life. It also prevents baked good from becoming dry or stall and preserves the colour of frozen fruits and jellies.
So don’t expect huge reductions in the sugar content of popular foods any time soon!
The five “reasons why” were put together in the September issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety published by the international Institute of Food Technologists.