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Posted by on Jun 24, 2013 in Health & Nutrition | 0 comments

Sugar. Got Bone Char?

Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. Did you know that during the sugar refinement process, often times charred animal bones (mostly cow’s pelvic bones) are used?

Bone char—often referred to as natural carbon—is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve its desirable white color. Other types of filters involve granular carbon or an ion-exchange system rather than bone char.

According to the USDA Organic website, products with their seal, are NOT allowed to use bone char to filter sugar.

How is it I have never heard this fact before? Apparently, because I had never googled it; there are many posts discussing this, including on the USDA.gov website that acknowledges this process.

They define Char as: black substance made from crushed, defatted, carbonized bones, used as a pigment and decolorizing agent.

If you have bought Organic cane sugar, or Raw Sucanat, you know that it is not white in color.

If you google: “is sugar bleached?” it may lead you to a sugar industry website, claiming, no they do not bleach sugar. But, remember the bone char process has now been named “natural charcoal process”. So, they may not pour bleach on it, but they are charring dead cow bones and running the sugar through those said bones to make the sugar white. Also, mill sugar (granulated sugar) sometimes uses sulfur dioxide to whiten sugar.  Ooh, so natural.

Ok. So, you’re not vegan and animal by-products are fine with you. I think the point to think about is- do we really need sugar to be WHITE? In an effort to reduce processing, choosing food products that have less steps to make the end result can’t be a bad thing.

Seriously, I was just trying to research “which type of sugar is better” and I learned so much more!

That is not to say I am implying non-bone char sugar is healthier or that sugar is healthy. I am saying NO to charred cow bones and synthetic pesticides.

So, (in limited amounts) if you’re going to use sugar, what is the best type of sugar?

Well, there is no absolute answer… Mainly, because as we discussed in earlier post, sugar is sugar is sugar (will all be broken down into a monosaccharide)… BUT, we also know that isn’t exactly the whole picture.

Although, most everyone does agree that: excess sugar is detrimental to your health; some won’t even advocate its use. But, realistically, there are times we are going to eat sugar. Definitely limiting foods with added sugar bods well for a healthier diet (obvi), but if you want to add sugar, or are reading the labels on the foods you buy, there are several types to choose from.

For me, when deciding what type of sugar I want to buy, I want to use the one that is the least processed. That being said, all sugar is processed to some degree.

Sugar in the Raw is one of those misleading products. Why? Because the term “raw” makes consumers think that it is unprocessed. Not the case. Plus, it is not organic sugar, therefore synthetic pesticides and herbicides are used.

From all the articles, posts, blogs, websites I read, this appears to be the list of best to worst sugars (although many people still disagree)

  1. Stevia
  2. organic sucanat (a traditional brown sugar substitute)
  3. organic raw turbinado sugar or organic raw cane sugar
  4. organic coconut sugar (a newer sugar darling, some people like it because it still retains nutrients, albeit low levels)
  5. granulated sugar (with newer alternatives available on the market, just say no)

Other sugars are:

  • raw honey (great alternative)
  • molasses (black strap)
  • organic maple syrup (grade B)
  • organic Medjool dates

It is recommended that you soak the dates in water.  I put mine in a small airtight, glass container, cover with water and place in fridge.

Unfortunately, labels such as: don’t put plastic bag over your head still exist. Therefore, some people actually think because they are eating “raw” sugar, they can overindulge because it is “natural”. Not the case. And not all “raw” sugars are “the same”.

So, which sugar do you buy?

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