I’m sorry to break it to you, but don’t be fooled, don’t be fooled! Brown sugar is really white sugar. If you thought that by using brown sugar instead of white sugar you were making a healthier choice, you’re not. And I understand and respect your good intentions to make better food choices. Unfortunately, this is another situation where this carbohydrate has been disguised to fool people into thinking they’re making healthier food choices whilst spending more money. And false advertising is also to blame!
C6H12O6 + C6H12O6 => C12H22O11 + H2O
glucose + fructose => sucrose + water
Okay, okay, I’m getting a little bit technical. Above is the chemical compound for refined sugar, which you sprinkle all over your food, stir into your drinks and overindulge in, in the form of chocolates and sweets. Do you still want to add sugar to your food?! Food shouldn’t be so complicated and involve a calculator and a degree in Maths!
photo credit Brooke Lark
MAKING SUGAR FROM BEETS AND CANE
The Sugar Association states that ‘Sugar – sucrose – is a carbohydrate that is present naturally in fruits and vegetables. All plants use a natural process called photosynthesis to turn sunlight into the nourishment they need for growth. Of all known plants, sugar is most highly concentrated in sugar beets and sugar cane. Sugar is simply separated from the beet or cane plant, and the result is 99.95% pure sucrose (sugar). The sucrose from sugar beets and sugar cane is not only identical to one another, but each is the same as the sucrose present in fruits and vegetables.’ They go on to explain the sugar extraction from sugar cane and beets, which involves washing. The sugar beets are sliced and soaked in hot water to begin the process that separates sugar from the rest of the plant. The hot sugary liquid is filtered, concentrated to a deep brown syrup, whose colour is due to its high molasses content. The molasses – rich syrup is allowed to cool slightly before it is whirled in a centrifuge, a large perforated basket spinning very rapidly much like a washing machine in the spin cycle – where most of the molasses is washed away. At the end, hot water is sprayed over the light brown crystals to remove the remaining molasses, leaving pure naturally white sugar crystals. The sugar crystals are then dried. It is important to note that beet sugar is neither chemically altered nor bleached to achieve its naturally white colour.’
FROM WHITE TO BROWN
Now the process of changing white sugar into brown sugar is not that complicated and doesn’t involve any form of bleaching, just the above process of adding or removing the molasses. Sugar products sold in stores all differ depending on their crystal size and molasses content. Molasses adds both colour and flavour to the sugar.
White sugar with the added molasses contains slightly more minerals than the sugar without the molasses. There are still no real health benefits or significant nutritional benefits. Brown sugar is made by simply adding molasses to white sugar and the more molasses you add, the darker the sugar and you can make it in your own kitchen!
PLANT BASED SUGAR ALTERNATIVES
If you’ve been struggling to give up the refined stuff, including the brown refined stuff, here are some alternatives you can try and still enjoy some sweet treats.
Xylitol is a low-calorie sweetener derived from plants, specifically the bark of the silver birch tree. It has the look and feel of table sugar, is just as sweet, contains 30% fewer calories and has a (GI) glycemic index score of 7.
Stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant and is a part of the sunflower family. Stevia has over 300 times more sweetener than sugar but is significantly low in carbohydrates. It doesn’t raise your blood glucose levels or cause any dental cavities.
Agave Nectar/Syrup this is the sugar that I use, and believe me when I say that a little goes a very long way! It is sweeter than refined sugar. Agave plants flourish in volcanic soil. It is comparable to honey and contains natural fructose.
Coconut Palm Sugar is made from the coconut sap. It has a GI score of 50, which is still lower than refined sugar and it is loaded with the following minerals; iron, potassium and calcium.
Date Syrup is made from pureed dates that can blend in your kitchen with little to no effort. It’s also packed with potassium and is very versatile.
Giving up sugar can be really challenging for some people, especially if you’ve been used to consuming copious amounts of refined sugar in your food every day. But if you’ve been desperate to make a change and want to steer clear of the incognito white sugar, then try the plant-based options above that are extremely versatile, readily available and will last for ages as you only need a very small helping per serving.
Let me know in the comments section your personal struggles giving up sugar and what alternative sugars you switched too. Or have you just stopped consuming sugar completely?!