Friday, April 13, 2012

Natural Sugar - Part 2

Natural Sugar and Spice - CAN Really be Nice! Part 2
Guest Post By Regina
First read part one

So what do you do if Tommy doesn't like the taste of honey or maple syrup and thinks he needs a real sugar fix? You might go to your bulk food store, look at the choices of sugars on the shelf, and decide it is easier to let Tommy eat his 36-bags-of-white-sugar! But don't, because there is the difference.

You can find Sucanat (which is a contraction for “sugar cane natural”), Rapadura, Evaporated Cane Juice, Raw sugar, and Turbinado sugar. These forms all come from sugar cane. 
Let's start with Sucanat (a registered trademark name) and Rapadura. According to my research, these products are basically the same, only made by different manufacturers. Since Sucanat is well known I will not mention Rapadura any further.

Sucanat is the most minimally refined cane sugar you can buy. Back in those good-old-days, this is the form of sugar people used. (Ever read “The Yearling”? Ma Baxter dries her sugar cane for the year's supply of sugar.)
Sugar cane is cut, then crushed in a mangler which extracts the sweet juice. The juice is heated to reduce the water content, then allowed to cool and dry by a process called - hand paddling. In this process, granules are formed. The result is pure dried cane juice which retains all the molasses; the vitamins and minerals are not displaced during the processing. Hence, Sucanat has been proven to have the highest nutrient content of all forms of cane sugar. Because of the molasses, Sucanat has a strong, distinctive flavor and is grainy, rather than crystalline. It contains less sucrose since it is not purified; white sugar is almost pure sucrose. This makes Sucanat not as sweet as white sugar and it will not affect your blood sugar to the extent white sugar will. Sucanat contains 15 calories per teaspoon.

Raw sugar is processed into crystals instead of granules by a commercial process, not hand paddling. (Hand paddling helps to keep the molasses and nutrients in Sucanat.) According to one source, true raw sugar is not sold in the United States due to impurities.

Turbinado sugar is a form of raw sugar and is also known as “Sugar in the Raw”. The difference between raw sugar and turbinado sugar is turbinado sugar goes through more processing to remove impurities and surface molasses. It is not refined to the extent of white sugar. It contains some molasses content (which means it retains some of the nutrients but not as much as Sucanat), and is lighter in color and taste than Sucanat.

Evaporated cane juice is light brown, granulated, and close in taste and texture to white sugar. Evaporated cane juice skips the refining or bleaching process that takes place with white sugar.
Brown sugar is white sugar with some molasses added back into it. This adds to the flavor but does not add nutrients back into the sugar.
In simple language, sugar cane is boiled to remove water from the sugar solids. At this point, Sucanat is hand paddled to dry and form granules. At this same point, raw sugar is processed into crystals by a commercial process instead of hand paddling, and Turbinado sugar is further refined to remove impurities. Evaporated cane juice and white sugar is even further refined, and then, white sugar is bleached. 
Since Sucanat is the healthiest choice of the cane sugars, I will not mention the others. 
Leaving the sugar cane family, next time we'll take a look at another natural sweetener. 

Do you use any of the less refined alternatives to white sugar?


  1. Appreciating this helpful series! I've used Sucanat in the past and want to get back to using it again. It doesn't always dissolve as well in baked goods leaving a grainy texture so I would grind it a bit in my coffee grinder and that worked really well!

  2. I'm curious what you know about Xylitol? I hear such good things about it but am wondering if it's "too good to be true". It works so well in place of sugar (except in drinks!) but I wonder if it's really as 'ok' as people make it out to be. Blessings~Annie

  3. We use honey and maple syrup when we can, but sucanat usually in baking. It works great!

  4. I have used Sucanat too but quit because of the grainy texture in baked goods. Does it need to be dissolved in a liquid before being mixed with the other ingredients in a recipe? I've had good results cutting the sugar in half in most baked goods and they're still plenty sweet enough. Thanks for this series - this is something I've often thought about but never took the time to do all the research.

  5. I use Sucanat some, but sparingly. I use liquid stevia a lot! I just made some cream pies with a small amount of white sugar, and mostly liquid stevia, for the sweeteners.It tastes so good I;m not worried about taking it to the fellowship meal at church!
    Thanks for the concise info!

  6. This is really useful information - thanks!

  7. I am enjoying reading this. I'm trying to switch to stevia in as much as I can and other alternatives where I haven't figured out how to use stevia. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I am so glad that you all are enjoying this series. Regina is going to be answering some of your questions on baking with Sucanet, Xyliitol and stevia in later posts!


  9. We mostly use Sugar in the Raw and sparingly use white sugar. I think we need to try Sucanat. And I didn't realize white sugar was bleached. Time to quit buying it. Thanks for the great info!

  10. What about back strap molasses?


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