Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are Cane Juice and Raw Sugar the Same as White Sugar?

I am again attempting to find out at which steps of the sugar refining process we get these products. Also, what is their nutritional value?
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Cane Juice
  • Organic Sugar
  • Turbinado
  • Raw Sugar
  • Molasses
I posted something about this earlier in the year, but I want even more details, from more sources. The cold, hard facts. I can not get the best information from any source that is selling something. Unfortunately, I am having a difficult time finding this information elsewhere!

I have many people asking why I don't eat some of the above listed sugars. I do eat molasses. A naturopathic doctor once recommended that I eat one tablespoon of molasses a day. I was eating vegan then. I haven't touched the other sugars all year because I believe they are much more refined products of sugar cane/sugar beet than molasses. Molasses is full of iron and other vitamins and minerals. You really can't overeat the stuff--it's so strong! It makes a wonderful sweetener, especially in my favorite gingersnap cookies.

I think that the other sugars listed are advertising "gimmicks" to get us health-concious folks to think a product is okay. I really don't believe that there is a big difference between white table sugar and evaporated cane juice, cane juice, raw sugar and turbinado. If the differences are microscopic, then I think they hardly count. I think the differences should be as obvious as molasses compared to white table sugar. If there are "trace" amounts of nutrition in cane juice or turbinado, does that really make it healthy?

The research that I am looking for is harder to find than I thought. All I want is a chart that shows the sugar refining process, with these different sugars listed at the point at which they are a final product. Ideally, these different sugar products would then be charted according to their nutrition. Do these charts exist? I've looked on both sugar websites and "anti-sugar" websites.

Wikipedia apparently agrees with me, "Evaporated cane juice is used more widely across the globe and is gaining currency as a euphemism for refined white sugar." I think "euphemism" is a loose term, and definitely not a scientific term, but nevertheless...

I'm finding the same thing on most websites, "[Evaporated cane juice] may also be known by a variety of other names including dried cane juice, crystallized cane juice, milled cane sugar and direct consumption sugar."(1)

If you've heard of Sunspire Natural Chocolates, they also have something to say about raw sugar, "Raw sugar is coarse, tan to brown-colored sugar (sucrose) which results from the first processing of cane or beet sugar. True "raw sugar" cannot be sold in the USA because it contains impurities such as soil, mold yeast, bacteria, and wax. When further processed to remove the impurities it is sold as turbinado sugar."(2)

Here is an interesting perspective written by Nutritionist Vimlan VanDien, "One hundred grams of dried cane juice is pretty much the same thing as 100 grams of other sweeteners, no matter what you call it," says Vimlan VanDien, a nutritionist at the respected Bastyr University, in Seattle, Washington. "When people call these sugars something other than sugar, it's deceptive in a way if the market is uninformed. Because dehydrated cane juice is sugar. It simply sounds like a whole food."

VanDien feels that calling these sweeteners something other than what they are is a way that some consumers can sugarcoat their consciences too.

"To a certain extent," she explains, "when people buy products with so-called alternative sweeteners, it gives them an excuse to eat sugar. They'll say, Oh, it's organic, so it's O.K.' Or, It's a whole food.' But it's not whole food. If you wanted the whole food, you'd go out in the field and eat the sugar cane, and get all the fiber and nutrients it has." (3)

I found a sugar refining website (4) that talks about the process of sugar refining, but leaves out when the various sugar products are produced. The sugar refining process is very interesting to me. It reminds me that sugar is in no way a whole food. What once was a beautiful green sugar cane (sold at open markets in Hawaii and fun to chew on) ends up an embarrassed little pile of tiny white, nutrition-less crystals.

Ah, I should write a children's book about the sugar refining process from the sugar cane's point of view. Poor guy.

(1) (-http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=120)
(2) (http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/nspired/sunspire/faq.d2w/report#gsweet)
(3) (http://organicanews.com/news/article.cfm?story_id=23)
(4) (http://www.refinedsugar.org/)


Linds said...

I agree with you. I use molasses but do my best to stay away from the others. I mostly use honey or real maple syrup though.

Have you heard of Rapadura? I've read some about it and it seems like a good alternative when it comes to needing the sugar consistency for baking, thoughts?

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

That's really interesting. I learned a lot of things I didn't know.

And that poor, poor Mr. Sugar Cane. What a rough life. Can't wait for the book. LOL

Rosso said...

Hi this is a great blog. Please have a look at mine too. We have a common goal here. Anti sugar! I've posted up a Paleolithic diet and some tips on oils. I've been blogging for a few weeks now and I'm in my infancy. Got quite a few fans already. Would be great, no would be fantastic if I could have you on board with me!


My Year Without said...

Thanks for your comments!

Linds, I have actually been looking into Rapadura and Sucanat, but I haven't found what it's going to take to get me to try either of these.

It sounds like they are both "whole sugars" being "unrefined", but I am still hesitant. An apple or a carrot is an example of a whole sugar, but I can identify it, I could not identify the SOURCE of these other two sugars, which makes me wonder about their production process. I am still looking into it. Thanks for inquiring and getting me to do more research!

Dale said...

It is hard to find out exactly what happens during the refining process. I've been going on the assumption that there's no particular nutritional difference (if any) between sugar and "evaporated cane juice." But then I've also been going on the assumption that as far as insulin is concerned there's also not much difference between sugar & molasses or honey: I've been avoiding all of them as much as I can.

I'd love to find out that there was one or two of the crew that didn't send insulin levels rocketing about, but I don't see any particular reason to think it's likely :-(

Let us know what you find out!

Shane said...

One alternative as a sweetner for those concerned about blood glucose levels is agave nectar. I've had very good results with it. ON the topic of sugars being "good" or "not bad" for someone, I think an important thing is being overlooked. It's not that some people are looking for sugar that is "good" for you, they just want a product that is as close to natural and not man-made as possible. They want something that hasn't been run through a process with chemicals that end up polluting your body. I would love to know what these experts eat who so openly state that no sugar is "good" for you and that all sweetners are essentially the same. They break down in the body differently. I won't put artificial sweetners in my body because they put more pressure on my liver than regular sugar does. On the flip side, agave nectar seems to be even better in it's effects on the body. Not saying that it is perfect and I definitely don't have scientific evidence supporting it, but I know I feel 100 times better having cut out sugar and using it. I think what it comes down to is find what works for you and go with it. How did the no sugar go for an entire year? I hope well!