Pacific Beef Broth [organic]
Spend much time looking at ingredient lists on organic, natural or health foods and you’re sure to see either Evaporated Cane Juice
or Evaporated Cane Sugar
… and see it fairly often at that. Better than seeing sugar
as an ingredient, right? Don’t be so sure.
Even if you realize it is a product made from sugarcane (same source as most white sugar) it seems like it should be better for you than the white stuff. If you are on a whole foods diet it sounds promising. It sounds like the only way to get a less processed product would be to eat a chunk of sugarcane. Right?
Unfortunately, no. Nearly all of the evaporated cane sugar out there is virtually identical to white sugar. (Remember that “Nearly”… we’ll get back to that later on.) It is processed the same way short of one step. In fact, it would be nearly white if some molasses wasn’t added back to it at the end.
What do you get if you squeeze the juice from sugarcane, process it with high heat to form crystals, spin it in a centrifuge or high-pressure filter to separate the crystals, and split off everything but sucrose. You end up with a product that is virtually identical to the good ol’ white sugar we’re trying to avoid. Sadly, the safe sounding “natural organic evaporated cane juice” on the label is almost guaranteed to be this version of processed sugarcane.
The Good News
Take a piece of sugar cane and chew on it and you’ll get a ton of nutrients and anti-oxidants. (I actually did that many years ago during a trip to FL… not exactly useful in a cup of coffee though.) Squeeze out the juice and you get pretty much all of the those nutrients (minus a LOT of fiber.) You even have something that doesn’t spike your blood sugar the same way regular sugar does!
Heat it with a low heat, stir with paddle, dehydrate down and form a brick, and you have something called rapadura which still has pretty much the same nutritional qualities as the original juice. These days, the rapadura is ground into course granules and available online as rapadura and under the brand name Rapunzel.
When you see dehydrated cane juice/sugar in the ingredients list or in products like Sugar in the Raw, think twice before assuming they are “good” alternatives to white sugar. They may be better, but only slightly… very slightly.
If you want a “natural” sweetener other than maple syrup or honey, rapadura may be an option (decide for yourself.) But don’t assume that any mass-produced product has anything other than the highly processed version.
For a more detailed look at evaporated cane juice/sugar, check out this great article on the subject.
Our Government to the Rescue
Apparently the FDA doesn’t like companies calling this stuff “Evaporated Cane Juice”. In a 2009 Draft, they propose calling for discontinuing use of the term on labeling.
They’re worried the public might be misled that it is healthier than sugar, right? Nope. They don’t like it because it “falsely suggests that the sweeteners are juice.”
Yep. We might think the stuff is juice. Sheesh.