Mar 16, 2006

Healthy Sugar

There are many different ways to view “healthy” sugar.  Someone asked recently, “Which is better: raw or organic sugar?”  That is similar to asking, “Which is better: apples or oranges?”  I’ve done a little research and found out a few things about cane sugar in particular.  I believe the most important question to ask when looking at sugar cane products is how refined is it?  We all know that ordinary white sugar is highly refined and, therefore, toxic to our bodies.  Everyday brown sugar is only very slightly better, having had a small amount of molasses added to that highly refined white sugar.

But there are LOTS of other choices out there now, so we don’t need to poison our children on a daily basis!  I will start at the top of what I found in my research.  Apparently, there is a NEW sugar cane product that will be out soon (at least I haven’t seen it yet), that is purported to be the highest in nutrients and the least processed.  Shakkar, an Indian dried cane juice, is simply a pressed cane extract.  Nothing more.  I’ll have to check it out!

Next, and what I mostly use, is Rapadura, in which the sugar cane has been squeezed, dried, and ground, retaining most of the nutrients.  This is actually the old, original recipe for Sucanat, which ended up being sold several times over to other companies, all of which changed the original Sucanat recipe to what it is now:  separated sucrose (white sugar) and molasses (which is the first step of refining white sugar before they add all kinds of chemicals, toxins, and other lethal agents!).  They then dry the separated sucrose and molasses, and reunite them in the current Sucanat recipe, which means that it is a good choice for sugar still, but with slightly less nutrients and is slightly more refined.  Rapadura and Sucanat are both recommended.  Other names for Rapadura, or a very pure, unrefined sugar are jaggery, gur, panela, and piloncillo, which may be found in import stores.

Then there is a whole list of “healthy” or “natural” sugars which are somewhat misnomers.  They are definitely healthier than white or brown sugar because they do not use any chemicals or toxins in their refining process, but they are a little more refined, generally using high temperatures, even though they are often called “raw.”  The most common of these, which are all similar in nutrient content and amount of refining are raw sugar (Sugar in the Raw), turbinado, demerara, evaporated cane juice, and muscavado.  I use these once in a while, such as when I am serving something sweet to someone who will NOT appreciate my expensive good quality sugars or if I want a certain outcome, such as Sugar in the Raw in my iced tea, which is very good.

The second thing to consider in cane sugar products is whether or not it is organic.  That question applies to sugar in the same way it applies to everything else.  Do you care whether or not there are pesticides used in growing this food item?  You can get these healthy versions of sugar both in organic and not.  If it is available, and the price is reasonable, organic is better.  But the amount of refining is of FAR more importance than whether or not it is organic.

Although I still keep a lid on how much sugar I allow my children, I feel much better knowing that I am using a plant in the form God intended it to be consumed – whole, pure, and unrefined.  Well, mostly!

Have a sweet day – guilt-free!


christy perkins said...

Thanks for that, Jen. I've been wondering, too! I love my sweets, so I'm still trying to find the best product.

Grafted Branch said...

How 'bout Splenda? ;)