Posts Tagged ‘sweetener’

Refined Sugar: Not So “Refined”

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Refined Sugar

We’re starting to notice a developing trend away from refined sugar and towards natural sweeteners. There is a growing awareness that refined sugar has virtually no nutritional value, while excess consumption may have serious negative consequences to our health. Fortunately, food manufacturers (and consumers!) can leverage this growing trend and incorporate natural sweeteners in their applications as an alternative to refined sugar. An array of natural sweeteners are now available such as agave and yacon syrups, coconut sugars and other palm sugars. The appropriate sweetener probably depends on the specific application.

For example, here is how search volume has been trending for palm sugar, a natural sweetener, over the past few years:

palm sugar search volume

Refined sugar comes almost exlcusively from sugar cane and sugar beets. These plants contain juices from which sugar crystals, syrups and molasses are made. It’s worth noting that raw sugar cane juice is actually fairly good for you and has a relatively low glycemic index. Refinement is the process of extracting the sucrose from these plant materials while removing unwanted materials from the raw sugar, such as plant fibers and soil.

Refinement consists of a repeated process of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying. More Than Sugar describes the process:

After harvesting the sugar cane, machines are used to wash, cut, and press the juice out of the cane stalks. This liquid is then heated to boiling and treated with chemical solvents to remove impurities. Then it is moved to huge tanks and heated again to evaporate the water content. This leaves a thick syrup that is placed in a centrifuge machine to form the syrup into crystals…These crystals are then transported to a sugar refinery where they are heated to boiling again, treated with bleach and other chemicals and then filtered through bone char, which is a powder made from cow or pig bones. After filtering, the syrup is then centrifuged again to produce refined white sugar. Brown sugar is created by adding molasses before putting it in the centrifuge.

Table sugar is sucrose in its completely refined stage. “Pure” sugar refers to chemical purity, not to a nutritionally beneficial quality. In fact, pure sugar is virtually void of all nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers.

It is felt that the consumption of excess sugar is linked to the improper functioning of the liver. Some simply call refined sugar dangerous. According to the Refined Sugar blog:

In addition, most people consume far more sugar than their bodies can possibly use for energy. When this happens, the liver converts the extra sugar into molecules called triglycerides and stores it as fat, or else produces cholesterol from the by-products of sugar and deposits it in veins and arteries. Sugar is thus a major factor in obesity and arteriosclerosis…It also negatively effects behavior. Refined sugar consumption has been linked to violent behavior, hypertension, and learning impediments.

If you are a food or nutraceutical manfacturer and you’d like to talk about the use of natural sweeteners in your applications, please contact us. We’d be happy to discuss any specific application you have in mind. Consumers can purchase natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, yacon syrup and agave syrup from many online retailers, and a growing number of traditional food stores.

Subscribe and follow Ingredient Hotline. It’s an easy way to stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients!

Photo Credit: Lauri Andler. Licensed under the GFDL.

Coconut Sugar

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Palm Tree

We’re pretty excited about natural sweeteners, and feature yacon syrup with an ultra low glycemic index. Another product we like is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made from fresh coconut sap collected from the cuttings of the flower buds on dwarf coconut trees. The sap is caramelized, then crystallized into a fine grained brown sugar. It’s 100% natural, and the perfect alternative to refined sugars in applications such as confectionery and desserts. The creamy, almost caramel-like sweetness also works well in the flavouring of curries and rich sauces for savory dishes. On a personal note, we’ve been using coconut sugar in our coffee for a while now and it’s great!

Besides its amazing texture and flavour, it also has a low glycemic index, much lower than refined sugar. Glycemic index (GI) is a tool that was developed at the University of Toronto back in the 1980’s. An ingredient’s glycemic index measures how it affects blood glucose levels in an individual. Carbohydrate foods are assigned a number between 0 and 100 based on that effect. Glycemic Index is often categorized into three levels:

  • High: a GI of more than 70
  • Moderate: a GI between 55 and 70
  • Low: a GI below 55

Due to its low glycemic index, research suggests that using coconut sugar can help stabalize insulin levels in people with type 1 & type 2 diabetes. It is also suggested that a the use of low glycemic index foods can lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol. Low glycemic index foods should also help with weight maintenance, preventing obesity and being overweight.

We encourage you to look into the research on lower glycemic index foods for yourselves. In the mean time, you might want to consider trying coconut sugar. If you’re a food manufacturer, contact us and we’d be happy to arrange for a sample. Consumers can purchase coconut sugar directly from sources such as Amazon. If you use coconut sugar, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Here’s another idea: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog today and follow us on twitter so you can stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients.

Creative Commons License photo credit: HeyDanielle