It’s a fact that some organic products, especially fresh produce, contain none of the harmful chemicals that are found in and on their non-organic counterparts. What about organic sugar, though? Is it really any different than the white, refined sugar that so many of us use everyday? The results of my side-by-side comparison may surprise you! Come on in to my virtual kitchen and I’ll give you the skinny on organic sugar vs refined sugar.
As I strive to become healthier, I’ve become a big advocate of reading food labels. Rather than taking the word of the self proclaimed experts out there, I’ve taken it upon myself to dig deep and investigate the facts regarding how the foods I put into my body are grown and processed. Because I know that there are many of you doing the same thing, I want to give you some of the facts I’ve learned about organic sugar vs refined sugar.
Food Facts – Organic Sugar vs Refined Sugar
What is refined sugar?
Refined sugar is made from raw sugar cane that has undergone a refining process to remove the molasses. That refining process also strips the sugar of all of its vitamins, minerals and health benefits.
Organic sugar (also called Rapadura)
Organic sugar comes from sugar cane. Natural sugar cane is brimming with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibers, and phytonutrients that help the body digest the naturally occurring sugars. The minerals required to digest sugar are calcium, phosphorous, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and manganese. It also contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which work synergistically with the minerals to nourish the body.
Polyphenols are also present in natural sugar cane. In simple terms, polyphenols are phytonutrients (nutrients found in plant form) with powerful antioxidant properties and numerous potential health benefits. Sugar cane contains a unique mix of antioxidant polyphenols. The polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals present in sugar cane help slow down the absorption of the sugars and prevent the sharp rise in blood sugar levels associated with refined sugar.
When you eat any type of sugar that has been refined, your body has to pull stored nutrients from itself to be able to properly digest the sugar. This is commonly called “leaching”. Refined sugar robs calcium and other minerals from your bones, tissues, and teeth in order to be digested. Since calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in natural sugar cane and needed the most for proper digestion of sugar, it is the most important for your body to retain.
Rapadura is an organic, unrefined sugar with a delicious, caramel flavor and a grainy texture. It is not crystallized, like processed sugars. And unlike white sugar, which is void of any vitamins or minerals, rapadura is actually high in nutrients. It’s very easy to bake with, too.
Rapadura is harvested from sustainable family farms in Brazil through the Hand in Hand, fair trade program.
What about “Natural” Sweeteners?
It’s common knowledge to most people that white sugar isn’t healthy and that it doesn’t supply the body with any nutrients. But there are loads of so-called natural sweeteners on the market that aren’t much better than white sugar. Sweeteners like muscavado, turbinado, demarara, evaporated cane juice, evaporated cane sugar and sugar in the raw are boiled, dehydrated into crystals, and spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals from the molasses. This process is usually accomplished with chemicals (although it’s sometimes done using pressure). Then, some of the molasses is added back to the crystals, many times in unnatural proportions, and the so-called “natural” sugar is marketed as a health food. In other words, we’re being duped into paying more money for something that really isn’t any better for us. I don’t know about you, but that infuriates me!
The visible differences of organic sugar vs refined sugar are evident by the dark color and coarser texture. Because organic sugar retains all of the nutrients found in its natural state, it also has a prominent molasses aroma. Surprisingly, however, organic sugar doesn’t taste much different than refined sugar. The molasses taste is very minimal. As a matter of fact, I could barely notice a difference. My husband said he could definitely taste the molasses, but not enough so to make a huge difference. He said he’d use it on a bowl of cereal without a second thought.
Obviously, if you’re making a light colored cake or cookies, Rapadura won’t give you the visible results you’re probably looking for.
Baking with Organic Sugar vs Refined Sugar
I used the Rapadura to make a batch of blueberry lime muffins. I made 6 muffins using refined sugar and 6 with Rapadura. To make sure that the playing field was even, I baked them up in the same pan, at the same temperature, and for the same length of time. Here’s what they looked like after baking:
Nutritional Differences of Organic Sugar vs. Refined Sugar
Side by side, you can see that there is no caloric difference when it comes to organic sugar vs refined sugar.
Sugar is sugar, and unfortunately, they both come with calories and they both are again – STILL SUGAR. It still should be consumed in moderation regardless.
The main difference between the two comes into play when you look at the nutritional values.
I found this nutritional comparison here, and I think this is what truly convinced me that Rapadura would become my sweetener of choice.
After making a few phone calls, I could only find one store in my town that carries Rapadura, and unfortunately, they were out of stock.
Incidentally, much of the information that I shared with you today came from an awesome article written by a non-profit organization called Processed Free America. Their article, “The Skinny on Evaporated Cane Sugar” is filled with eye opening facts regarding common sweeteners and sugar substitutes.
Now that you know the facts on organic sugar vs refined sugar, do you think you’ll give it a try, or even be like me and make a permanent switch?