All About Sugar {and how to switch to the real stuff}

Sugar cubes

Do you remember as a kid when you used to sneak those little sugar packets from the restaurant table?  

No? Well, it was a common occurrence with us kids.  My parents never approved of this awesome practice, so naturally we learned how to sneak them unnoticed.  It was pretty scary, how good we were at smuggling those sugar packets from restaurant table, to the car, to each little greedy hand.  Just try eating 4 or 5 of those babies on a car ride home without anybody noticing.  It ain’t easy.

Now that I actually care about what goes in my body, I don’t steal sugar packets anymore.  Besides, it’s really hard to hide them from the husband & kids…

The History of Sugar

Sugarcane has been used for thousands of years.  Originally, people would chew the sugarcane in an effort to extract it’s sweetness.  When planting, harvesting, & extracting the sweet juice from the sugarcane plant became so labor intensive, that many plantation owners actually turned to slavery to make a profit.  Yikes, people!  Do you really need sugar THAT much?

To make sugar crystals one would have to grind the plant to extract the juice, boil down the juice to concentrate it, and then dry it in the sun to create crystalized sugar.  Around the 16th century, beets were discovered to contain sucrose as well, and thus began the harvesting of beets for their sugar.  It was found that beets were easier to grow because they could grow in a wider range of climates.   Also, the refining process was simple and so many people began to jump on the beet wagon.

Enter Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

Genetically Modified sugar beets were first introduced by the company Monsanto in 2008.  Read here on why genetically modified foods are devastating your health. After a long, long court debate, in July 2012 the FDA finally threw up their hands and allowed GMO sugar beets to be planted without regulation.  NO REGULATION = CROSS POLLINATION.  It won’t be too long before GMO sugar beets cross pollinate with ORGANIC sugar beets.  Pretty soon GMO sugar beets will be the only ones that exist. Talk about taking our choices away!

Luckily, cane sugar HASN’T been genetically modified yet.  Although, it’s not because they haven’t tried.  Actually scientists have been working on making cane sugar GMO for YEARS, but have failed due to the difficult genetic structure of cane sugar.

Brown Sugar — uncovered

People often think that brown sugar is somehow a “healthier” sugar.  While it is true that brown CANE sugar is produced by allowing the molasses (inherent in the sugar cane plant) to remain, that is NOT the case with BEET sugar.  Here one reason why brown sugar is NOT healthier…

Odds are, when you purchase regular ol’ brown sugar from the store, you are really purchasing GMO beet sugar, or a mix of GMO beet sugar & cane sugar.  On top of that, since beet molasses is not fit for human consumption, they must first strip the beet sugar all the way down to it’s white, refined state AND THEN add edible molasses to the final product. Talk about some refined, processed food! Geez, can it even be called food?

Currently, there is no law that requires labeling of whether the manufacturer used beet sugar or cane sugar.  It is estimated that about HALF of all sugar sold in the US is from sugar beets.

Because there is no law that requires sugar manufacturers to label whether their sugar is BEET sugar or CANE sugar, you really don’t know what you’re getting.  It could be the non-GMO and therefore healthier cane sugar OR it could be the GMO beet sugar OR it could be a mixture of both…problem is, there’s no real way of knowing.

What about White Sugar?

Although white sugar seems to be a common ingredient in MANY recipes, it’s a highly processed item.  If you want to lose weight, heal your body, regulate your hormones, improve behavior in your children then I wouldn’t suggest purchasing or baking with ANY kind of white sugar.  You don’t have to COMPLETELY avoid it.  I believe that a huge reason for real food failure is trying to be perfect.  A rule in our house is that we don’t bring the highly processed sugar into our home, but if we are at a family gathering or event and we want to partake, then we do. We know it’s not the best.  We avoid it.  We bring food to events with REAL sugar.  But we also don’t make our lives too incredibly strict.

Is there ANY healthy sugar out there?

For the longest time, we ONLY used honey & maple syrup for our “sugar”.  Whenever I made anything, whether it was cookies, cake, pie, cobbler, — anything, I used honey or maple syrup.  And while it works well in some things, it’s kind of a bummer in others.  We still use honey & maple syrup, but I really wanted a sugar alternative. I decided to search for an unrefined, non-GMO sugar.  It took some time, but I finally found it and I LOVE IT!

If you look at your local health food store, you’ll probably find some weird sugars in the baking isle.  You may see sugars called Turbinado or Sugar in the Raw, for example.  The sugar that I recommend, that is truly the LEAST processed is called Sucanat.  Sucanat stands for “Sugar Cane Natural”.  Sucanat is simply dehydrated, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. It is also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium, B vitamins and chromium. I choose Organic Sucanat because then I know for sure it is NOT genetically modified.  I buy it in bulk here and it’s a really great deal with free shipping! It’s such a better deal to purchase in bulk and it will last you quite a while.  For us, it lasts us about a year.

Compared with white sugar at the store, this is only slightly more expensive and WELL worth it!

Along with Sucanat, the ONLY other sweeteners we use are:

One thing to note here is that we don’t go crazy with the sweets, even if we are using a REAL SWEETENER. We probably make a wholesome dessert about 1-2 times a week.  When I was transitioning to a REAL food diet, I ate dessert made with real sweeteners every single night because I was still craving junk food.  The beautiful thing is I still lost weight doing this because I was using real, unprocessed sweeteners.
So trust me, you can have your cake and eat it too!    Have you made the switch to REAL sugar or sweeteners yet?
Sugar cubes