Healthy Sugar?

One of the biggest public enemies today is “SUGAR”. There is no doubt that too much sugar is causing the ever-rising health problems not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Governments across Europe and Asia are proposing a sugar tax. Since scientists, doctors, and nutritionists agree sugar is bad, how about we eliminate sugar from our life?

Imagine a world without our favorite sweet treats, or candies, ice cream, or other things that are supposed to contain sugar, or that the sugar is replaced by sugar substitutes. I think the first group to suffer will be parents of young children.

Human beings are drawn to sugar because it is the most natural form of energy for our body. Without sugar or carbohydrate- as in extreme diets- our body will turn other forms of macro nutrients into energy but in much less efficient way. In the long run, our body will reject such paths. Just imagine hiding all the candies and treats from kids and trying to brainwash them that sugar is toxic. Will they listen? Probably not. Well, how about if only a small amount of natural, good sugar is allowed? That is probably not a bad idea, but is there such a thing?

Sugar or sucrose can come from sugar cane (genus Saccharum) or sugar beet (Beta vulgaris). The sugar cane plant grows 2 to 6 meters high and a single stalk contains approximately 12 – 14% sucrose. To make things simpler, the process of extracting sugar from sugar cane happens in two steps: at a sugar mill and at a sugar refinery.

A sugar mill is usually located beside the field where sugar cane is harvested. It’s where raw sugar is obtained from the plant and brought to a sugar refinery. At a sugar mill, the plant stalks are washed and then cut into shreds. Big rollers then press and squeeze the juice out of the shredded stalks. The juice is clarified, concentrated, and crystallized producing raw sugar. This raw sugar is then brought to a cane sugar refinery.

At the refinery, the raw sugar is converted into brown sugar, granulated sugar and other consumer products. Centrifugation and concentration are some of the essential processes undergone at the refinery. The final products consist of sugar crystals of various sizes. These are then packaged accordingly.

There are many types of sugar available out there on the market. While some may sound healthier than others, they are all still sugar, and their nutritional value doesn’t differ much. My own favorite forms are the monk fruit and dried dates. Regardless, it is important to try to stay within the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for sugar consumption for optimal health: Less than 6 teaspoons (25g) per day. For children this amounts to no more than 3 teaspoons per day. Remember, sugar is a treat!

HERE ARE THE COMMON TYPES AND FORMS OF SUGARS WE CONSUME DAILY:

Type of Sugar Characteristics:Processing and Appearance Nutrients Image
White sugar
Also known as: Granulated sugar, Table sugar, Refined sugar
Most common form of sugar. It’s paper white in color and composed of fine crystals. There are many subtypes of refined or granulated sugar. Examples include castor sugar, confectioner’s/icing sugar, coarse sugar, baker’s special sugar and pearl sugar. Zero nutritional value! No vitamins, minerals. 100 % carbohydrates
Raw sugar Raw sugar has gone through minimal processing. There are various definitions. At the very least, it’s the result of the first stage of the sugar refining process. Approximately the same as white sugar. May contain traces of minerals, though not enough to make a huge difference to its nutritional value.
Organic sugar Organic sugar is sugar (from sugar beets or sugarcane) which hasn’t gone through the various refining processes and has a natural blonde color. It is sugar grown organically, without chemical pesticides or herbicides. Approximately the same as raw sugar.
Castor sugar Also spelled “caster” Castor sugar is granulated sugar that’s been ground to a powder (but not as fine as icing sugar) allowing it to dissolve quickly. It’s great for baking. Same as white sugar.
Icing sugar
Also known as: Powdered sugar, Confectioners sugar.
Regular white sugar is finely ground to a powder. It usually contains an anti-caking agent such as cornstarch. As the term implies, icing sugar is predominantly used for icing, glazes, whipping creams, and confectionery. Approximately the same as white sugar.
Brown sugar Can be either light or dark. Light brown sugar is also called golden brown sugar. Brown sugar gets its color from the presence of molasses. It can be refined (adding molasses to white sugar) or unrefined (some molasses was left after processing). Raw brown sugar is normally unrefined, while soft brown sugar is usually refined and then molasses is added back in. The only difference between ‘light’ and ‘dark’ brown sugar is the molasses content. Light has around 3.5% molasses while dark has about 6.5% molasses. Is brown sugar healthier than white sugar?
The nutritional value of brown and raw sugar is only slightly higher than white sugar. While the molasses content of brown and raw sugar contains some minerals like iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, these minerals are only in trace amounts.
Molasses Also known as black treacle Molasse is a byproduct of sugarcane (or sugar beet) processing. Its what’s left after the sugar crystals have been removed. It has a thick syrupy texture. There are different types of molasses. They differ in extraction, amount of sugar in them and the age of the plant they are from. These differences can also affect their nutrient content. Molasses is a common cooking and baking ingredient. Of all the types, blackstrap molasses has the highest nutrient value and the least sugar. It is the result of a third boiling of the cane juice so most of the sucrose crystals have already been removed.
Nutrients:

  • Minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, Sulphur and zinc.
  • Vitamins: biotin, choline, inositol, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine.
Golden Syrup Also known as light treacle Like molasses, golden syrup is a byproduct of sugar refining. It is made from refiners return sugar (after the first boiling). Approximately the same as white sugar.
Demerara
Also known as turbinado sugar
Often used in tea and other beverages, this partially processed sugar has a blond color because only the surface molasses has been removed.
Also used as toppings for crumbles, cakes, cupcakes.
The nutritional value of demerara is dependent on its molasses content. Though like raw and brown sugar, it doesn’t differ greatly from white sugar because the nutrients are only present in small amounts.
Jaggery
Also known by various other names such as panela or gula in other parts of the world.
Jaggery is a traditional sugar predominantly consumed in Africa and Asia.
There are different types of jaggery as it can be made from different plants including sugar cane juice, coconut palm sap, and date palm. It’s unrefined which means the molasses content isn’t removed so it has a rich brown color.
Unlike white table sugar, it contains small amounts of minerals though these can vary depending on the type of jaggery.
Nutrients:

  • Minerals: Iron, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Fiber: It contains some fiber and has a slightly lower glycemic index than table sugar.
Fruit Sugar
This term is usually given to fructose which is what makes fruit sweet.
A bit finer than table sugar with uniform crystals making it mix well in powders or other dry ingredients. So it’s often used for sweetening powdered and liquid beverages like soft drinks.
It’s usually made from cane or beet sugar (as sucrose is half fructose), but can also come from corn syrup.
While fructose has a low glycemic index, research is showing it has damaging effects on the liver when consumed in large amounts such as in soft drinks. It’s also a lot sweeter than table sugar.
So stick with whole fruit with all its natural fiber rather than fructose alone.
Coconut sugar Made from sap taken from the coconut palm. It has a similar taste to brown sugar.
Though sometimes it may be mixed with cane sugar so check the packet when you buy it.
It contains small amounts of minerals and fiber compared with white sugar.
Maple sugar Maple syrup is boiled which causes the sugars to form into sugar granules. Like brown sugar, it may have some traces of minerals, but not enough to be significant.

My favorite forms of sugar subsitute:

Monk Fruit Monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than sugar, yet still calorie free. Monk fruit is a far East remedy used in treating respiratory illnesses, in addition to its uses as a natural sweetner. Modern research has shown it helps prevent cancer, combats infections, and aids in weight loss.
Date dehydrated Dehydrated dates can be quite expensive and don’t dissolve in liquids, but they are just as sweet as sugar and only packed with good nutrients. Dried dates are unrefined so they are replete with nutrients.
Nutrients:

  • Fiber: dates contain prebiotic fiber which gives them a lower glycemic index than table sugar.
  • Antioxidants

2018-09-28T14:00:22+00:00July 31st, 2018|Categories: health & nutrition|Tags: , , , , , |

About the Author:

Angela earned her Ph.D. in Pathology from Saint Louis University School of Medicine and her MBA degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Angela has an extensive background in medical research, she was a recipient of American Heart Association Pre-doctoral Fellowship and Northwestern University School of Medicine Post-doctoral Fellowship. Her research topics ranged from cardiovascular diseases to cancer. Angela had lead pipeline planning and business development in pharmaceutical and international juice industry. Angela’s passion for natural healing is rooted in her strong belief in traditional Chinese medicine and herbal sciences, she started collecting and experimenting herbal recipes since age 5 and apply “Food-As-Medicine” to her daily family life. For more story on Angela Zeng please visit: Package Design Featured Karuna