Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t going to be a long post. We often hear people say, raw sugar is better than refined/processed sugar…”much healthier”, is the claim. But, is this really true? or is this just another case of blind loyalty, to words like “raw” and disdain for words like “refined” or “processed”?
I’m not kidding. We throw around these words without really investigating what they mean for a particular thing. You could probably guess by now, which way this is headed.
What is Refined Sugar?
To answer that question, we also need to understand what raw sugar is, also. Raw sugar that we purchase, is not all that raw. Both raw and refined start out the same way…duh. When the sugar cane is harvested, it is crushed and mixed with water to extract as much juice as possible. The sugar is then filtered and purified to remove most of the molasses.
After going through a centrifuge (to separate out the molasses) and evaporation, the sugar crystals are left. This is called “raw sugar”, which has trace amounts of the original molasses, (about 2%) along with some plant material. It is also known as Turbinado, Demerara or unrefined sugar. It has a light brown color due to the thin coating of molasses.
Now, refined sugar is simply the same raw sugar that goes through more filtering, washing and separation, which removes the remaining impurities and molasses. During processing, it is “bleached” and becomes white.
Well, what about brown sugar? This is simply the refined white sugar, with some molasses mixed back in at the end of the refining process. Sugar is sugar! Just ask Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, senior scientist at the HNRCA and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter [1,2,3]. With me so far? Not what you expected.
So what’s the difference?
The molasses in the “raw” sugar or brown sugar, has trace amounts of minerals like calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. Yes!.. so it is healthier. Uhhhh, not so fast. Trace amounts mean, negligible amounts, not enough to make a difference in the human body.
But all the ads say “healthy” unrefined raw sugar. Not just the ads, but the people in the fitness industry…and don’t forget about the healthy eating people. The problem here is that, those people use the same ridiculous logic, that it’s “raw and “unrefined”, without looking into what that means. “Don’t forget the minerals”, they say, but as stated earlier, it doesn’t do anything for you. People are so emotionally attached to their arguments, that when you confront them with the truth, they get so upset with you. But, why hold on to something if it is false. We should be happy to find out the truth, no matter what it is.
Give it to me. There really isn’t much difference between, brown sugar, “raw” sugar, and refined sugar. If you see unrefined or raw sugar, in the ingredient list of a health food, and you buy it…guess what? You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, sold some magic beans. Clever marketing and misguided people took your money.
Look, you can always argue that the artificial sugar people are spreading misinformation. But, finding out the percentages of minerals in raw sugar is pretty simple, and there is no debate about it in the scientific community. The health gurus don’t tell you the quantity, they simply say, “there are minerals and nutrients in the raw sugar”. There are two reasons why this is so. Either they don’t know, or they do know and want you to keep paying extra for useless junk. Your choice.
P.S. The Healthy Goat was last seen, trying to sell his magic unicorn to a group of health conscious, raw sugar eaters. A rumpus began, when the ice-cream cone fell of the head of the stolen mule.
Update: The Fighting Goat and his mule, managed to escape, by kicking the molASSES of the “raw” sugar eaters and are now safely eating ice cream cones on the pier.