A Healthier Sugar?

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White sugar has become a staple of the North American diet and appears in a variety of food items such as cookies, cake, gum and soda. In fact, it is currently estimated that approximately 200 billion pounds of refined sugar are produced per year and personal consumption in well-to-do countries often exceeds 100 pounds per year. White sugar is a refined sugar that is derived from the sugar cane and the sugar beet.

Refined white sugar is available in many granule sizes ranging from superfine to coarse. Curiously, most people believe that brown sugar is a healthier option than white sugar. Perhaps it is the look of brown sugar that has led people to this belief, or maybe it is clever marketing on behalf of food industries. In reality, a majority of brown sugar is simply refined white sugar that has had molasses added back into it to change its color. Tricky isn't it?

When searching for a "healthier" brown sugar, it is important to look for ones that are unrefined, such as demerara or muscovado. Demerara is a traditional unrefined sugar with a sparkling appearance. This sugar is an excellent sweetener in coffee.

Other, more natural sweeteners that provide more minerals and vitamins than white sugar are:

- Pure maple syrup
- Barley malt
- Rice syrup
- Dates
- Sucanat (granulated cane juice)

Another natural sweetening option is to use the no-calorie herb stevia. Stevia is an herb from Paraguay that is approximately 100 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. It can be purchased in most health food stores and is appropriate for cooking or baking. Some people report stevia having a slight licorice aftertaste. Baking successfully with stevia takes some practice. For more information, refer to The Stevia Cookbook by Ray Sahelian for more information.

Sugar tips

- Maple syrup can be used to sweeten all things. Once it has been opened it must be stored in the fridge and be used within three months.
- If brown sugar, such as muscovado becomes solid, add a slice of apple to the container for a couple of days to restore the moisture and the balance.
- Store brown sugar in a glass jar or a plastic bag in a cool, dry place.

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