The Sweet Truth: All You Need to Know About Sugar in Bread

Here at Queen Street Bakery, we offer a variety of thoughtfully crafted bagels and loaves made to please your tastebuds and boost your nutrition. We select only the best, nutrient dense ingredients that work in harmony to develop beautiful doughs and even better baked products. Baking is a complex and scientific process that involves perfectly balancing ingredients to enjoy their flavour and functional benefits. A key player in this process is sugar!

Why is There Sugar in My Bread?

For some background, we use a touch of natural sugars like pure maple syrup or agave syrup in our bagels and loaves. We use the smallest amount possible to help our dough rise so we can achieve our iconic texture and consistency in our products. A lot of brands (especially gluten-free ones) add lots of sugar to their product to try to make it taste better. We rely on our delicious ingredients and let their natural flavours shine through for a totally unique, and low sugar bread. We actually use way less sugar than the average loaf and bagel!

In this blog post, Queen Street Bakery’s nutrition team will explore the types of sugar commonly added to bagels and breads, their unique characteristics, and how they may impact your health. We’ll be diving into some food science, but don’t worry we won’t bore you!

It's essential to recognize the role of sugar in shaping the taste and texture of our products. Sugars do more than just add sweetness, they also contribute to the overall flavour profile and dough development. Sugar provides food for yeast and helps the dough rise through fermentation.

The Glycemic Index

Before we dive in, we’ll be referring to the glycemic index (GI) throughout this post. Never heard of it? No worries, we’re here to help break it down! The GI is a scale that ranks carb-containing foods by how much it raises your blood sugar after being eaten. These foods can be considered as low (≤ 55), medium (56-69), or high (≥ 70) on the scale. Low glycemic foods and sugars don't spike your blood sugar as much. This means, they help prevent that “sugar crash” feeling which often comes after eating high glycemic foods like white bread or table sugar.

The Sugars We Use

Let’s break down some of the sugars commonly added to breads and bagels. We’ll also give you some insight to the ones we thoughtfully selected to add to our products and why.  

Pure Maple Syrup: Canadian Gold

Maple syrup, a Canadian classic derived from the sap of sugar maple trees, brings a rich and pleasurable sweetness to bagels and breads. This minimally processed sugar has caramel undertones that complement whole-grain and nutty flours exceptionally well. In terms of the GI, maple syrup is at 54, meaning it is low on the scale and won’t cause a major spike in blood sugar.

Agave Syrup: A Sweet Twist

Agave syrup, extracted from the agave plant, is well-known for its low GI as it ranks 17 on the scale. Agave syrup offers a subtle sweetness and helps to enhance the softness of our bagels and loaves. However, there has recently been some mixed opinions online.

Fructose: Friend or Foe

Let’s put our food science hats back on for a moment. Agave has gotten some attention recently for being higher in fructose than other sugars. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found primarily in fruits. It is a simple sugar like glucose, but your body processes it a little differently. Fructose is slowly released into our bodies while glucose is rapidly released which causes a bigger spike in blood sugars. Since Agave has more fructose than glucose, it has a lower GI. Fructose is broken down in the liver so when we eat a lot of high fructose syrups it can stress out this very important organ.

But how much is too much? Research shows that consuming over 100 grams of fructose per day may come with undesirable health outcomes. Large amounts of high-fructose sugars are found in ultra-processed foods like candies, sugary cereals, and soft drinks. That being said, fructose is also found naturally in wholesome foods like apples, asparagus, peas, and zucchini!  

We only use a tiny touch of Agave to get those functional benefits in our dough that we talked about earlier. So rest assured, the amount of fructose in our products is so little it will hardly make a dent on your daily intake.

The Sugars We Don’t Use

Now we’re going to talk about some other sugars that are often found in store-bought breads and bagels. We’re not here to demonize any type of sugar, but we’ll explore some of the reasons why we chose not to include them in our products.

Honey: Natures Nectar

Honey’s distinctive flavor adds a subtle sweetness and depth to whatever it’s added to. Honey is made by hardworking bees, so it's not considered vegan. It used to be in our products, but we swapped it out for maple syrup and agave to be more inclusive for our vegan friends. Honey has a GI of 58 meaning it has a medium score and causes a bit of a spike in blood sugar.

Cane Sugar: The Common Companion

Cane sugar, derived from sugar cane, is a versatile sugar that is commonly used in the bagels and breads that you find at the grocery store. It’s fine crystals dissolve easily which can help provide a consistent sweetness throughout a dough. Cane sugar has a GI of 60 so it is medium on the scale. Since cane sugar has a lower GI and is less processed than granulated sugar, many companies add it to their products. We chose to opt out of cane sugar because we know we can bring you better options that promote a balanced and lasting source of fuel for your body.

Granulated Sugar: A Classic

Granulated sugar, also known as white or table sugar, is like an all-purpose sugar. It's usually derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Whether you're adding it to your coffee or a batch of homemade cookies, granulated sugar brings a punch of sweetness to the mix. Granulated sugars added sweetness comes with a GI of 68. This means it causes a higher spike in blood sugar, or that familiar “sugar rush”, than the other sugars on our list. We chose to skip this highly processed refined sugar to avoid its rapid but short-lived burst of energy.

In the world of bagels and loaves, sugar plays a crucial role in the baking process. Each type of sugar brings its own set of flavors, textures, and characteristics. At Queen Street Bakery, we strive to bring you products that will satisfy your taste buds without sacrificing your health. It’s important to remember that your overall diet and lifestyle play a much bigger role in your health than any individual sugar - as long as you’re eating them in moderation. So next time you’re at the grocery store, look for bread with more natural ingredients, less added sugar, and more benefits like ours!

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This article was written by Sophia Battista, RD, MHSc(c) & reviewed by Alicia Lang, RD, MHSc.