Sucrose, better known as table sugar, occurs naturally in most fruits and vegetables. It is a carbohydrate that provides energy. Manufacturers gather and refine sucrose primarily from sugar cane and sugar beets. The many uses for the substance drive the highly profitable sucrose industry. Some of the uses for sucrose are common to households, but others surprise you unless you know how other products are made.
The primary characteristic of sucrose is its sweetness. Sugar has the ability to make foods more appealing by making them less tart or bitter. People therefore use sucrose in preparing foods and drinks, and especially in desserts and pastries. Although synthetic sweeteners are available that can replace sugar, some cooks and homemakers prefer sugar because of how its chemical properties impact the texture and cooking of food.
Like salt, sugar is a natural preservative because it draws moisture out of bacteria, according to the Global Gourmet website. It is this property that lets sugar stay good in the pantry for months or even years. For this reason, people use sucrose to make items such as jams and jellies. They also put sugar near, in or on food to prevent it from deteriorating and growing mold as quickly, according to ReadersDigest.com.
Fermentation and Manufacturing
Sugar acts as a food source for fungi. Fungi, in turn, speed up the fermentation process. People thus add sugar to any manufacturing process that requires fermentation. For example, sugar is used with yeast, a fungus, in fermenting beer and cider. Sugar also is used in making ethanol, glycerol and acids, according to Riaz Khan of Philip Lyle Memorial Research Laboratory.
Insects like flies, ants and cockroaches are attracted to sugar. Sugar therefore is a nontoxic pest bait, according to ReadersDigest.com.
Sugar can also be a helpful additive to garden soil because it provides an inhospitable environment for nematodes (worm parasites) that attack garden plants. In addition to getting rid of these pests, sugar also nourishes the plants, making them grow bigger and stronger. Even cut flowers can stay fresh longer if you add sugar to the water in a vase.
Beauty and Cleansing
Sugar acts as an abrasive agent, meaning that it has the capacity to wear away at something else. This makes it perfect for use as a cleansing agent. Use it instead of baking soda to grind away foods stuck on pots and pans or to gently rid your sink of build-up. Another common trick is to use sugar as an ingredient in body scrubs, since it is an antibacterial agent that can remove dead skin cells and built-up oil on the body.