Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Sugars are the simplest carbohydrates. There are many different kinds of sugar molecules, each distinguished by the number of carbon atoms it contains, and then by the particular arrangement it assumes. Five-carbon sugars are especially important to all life because two of them, ribose and deoxyribose, form the backbones of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carriers of the genetic code. And the 6-carbon sugar glucose is the molecule from which most living things obtain the energy to run the biochemical machinery of their cells. Sugars are such an important nutrient that we have a special sense designed specifically to detect them. Sugars taste sweet, and sweetness is a nearly universal source of pleasure. It’s the essence of the dishes we serve at the end of the meal, as well as of candies and confections. Sugars and their properties are described in detail in chapter 12.