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Source: A Handbook Of Health

Where Sugar is Obtained. The other great member of the starch, or
carbohydrate, group of foods is sugar. This is a scarcer and more
expensive food than starch because, instead of being found in solid
masses in grains and roots like starch, it is scattered, very thinly,
through the fruits, stems, and roots of a hundred different plants,
seldom being present in greater amounts than two or three per cent. It
is, however, so valuable a food, with so high a fuel value, and is so
rapidly digested and absorbed, that man has always had a very keen
desire for it, or, as we say, a sweet tooth, and has literally
searched the whole vegetable kingdom the world over to discover plants
from which it could be secured in larger amounts. During the last two
hundred years it has been obtained chiefly from two great sources: the
juicy stem of a tall, coarse reed, or cane, the sugar-cane, growing in
the tropics; and (within the last fifty years) the sweet juice of the
large root of a turnip-like plant, the beet. Another source of sugar, in
the earlier days of this country, was the juice or sap of the sugar
maple, which is still greatly relished as a luxury, chiefly in the form
of syrup.

Honey is nearly pure sugar together with certain ferments and flavoring
extracts, derived in part from the flowers from which it is gathered,
and in part from the stomach, or crop, of the bee.

The Food Value of Sugar. In the early days of its use, sugar, on
account of its expensiveness, was looked upon solely as a luxury, and
used sparingly--either as a flavoring for less attractive foods, or as a
special treat; and like most new foods, it was declared to be
unwholesome and dangerous. But sugar is now recognized as one of our
most useful and valuable foods. In fuel value, it is the equal, indeed
the superior, weight for weight, of starch; and as all starch has to be
changed into it before it can be used by the body, it is evident that
sugar is more easily digested and absorbed than starch, and furnishes
practically a ready-made fuel for our muscles.

How We should Use Sugar. The drawbacks of sugar are that, on account
of its exceedingly attractive taste, we may eat too much of it; and
that, because it is so satisfying, if we do eat too much of it either
between meals or at the beginning of meals, our appetites will be
killed before we have really eaten a sufficient supply of nourishing
food. But all we have to do to avoid these dangers is to use common
sense and a little self-control, without which any one of our appetites
may lead us into trouble.

On account of this satisfying property, sugar is best eaten at, or near,
the close of a meal; and taken at that time, there is no objection to
its use nearly pure, as in the form of sweet-meats, or good wholesome
candy. Its alleged injurious effects upon the teeth are largely
imaginary and no greater than those of the starchy foods. The teeth of
various tropical races which live almost entirely on sugar-cane during
certain seasons of the year are among the finest in the world; and any
danger may be entirely avoided by proper brushing and cleaning of the
teeth and gums after eating.

If eaten in excess, sugar quickly gives rise to fermentation in the
stomach and bowels; but so do the starches and the fats, if
over-indulged in. Its real value as a food may be judged from the fact
that the German army has made it a part of its field ration in the shape
of cakes of chocolate, and that the United States Government buys pure
candy by the ton, for the use of its soldiers.

Next: Animal Fats

Previous: Starches

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