Checking Labels

Is evaporated cane juice the new healthy sweetener?  You’ve seen it on the ingredient list in many products in the health food store and on the carbohydrate summation of  the food label on the boxes of cereal at the large chain grocers. You can also find the crystalline form of evaporated cane juice in the baking supplies aisle.  It seems like evaporated cane juice appeared out of nowhere and is suddenly everywhere.

The important question is whether evaporated cane juice is healthier than regular table sugar?  Well one thing we know is that sugar and evaporated cane juice are both made from sugar cane. You can get both forms of sugar organic if the sugar cane was grown without pesticides and fertilizers.  But organic does not mean unprocessed.  It is also not synonymous with “healthy”.

So first, how is regular table sugar derived from sugar cane?  Here is a short, (1:52 minutes) video of the processing steps involved in making white, crystalline sugar.

cane sugar

Where sugar cane grows people have historically chewed on the stalks or pressed the stalks to release the juices.  These people did not suffer enormous incidents of tooth decay, diabetes or obesity when eating this unprocessed form of sugar.  The differences in these forms of sugar is in how they are processed and purified from sugar cane.

So first, how is regular table sugar derived from sugar cane?  Here is a short, (1:52 minutes) video of the processing steps involved in making white, crystalline sugar.

Evaporated cane juice is processed in exactly the same way as table sugar except that the step that occurs between 1:31 and 1:39 minutes in the video is omitted.  So there is only one more purification step added to make white table sugar than to make evaporated cane juice.   The crystallization process can be added to make the evaporated cane juice a solid like white table sugar or it can be added to a food product as a liquid.  So evaporated cane juice just like table sugar is a highly refined, purified substance.

Why are so many products using evaporated cane juice?  Because it sounds healthier than sugar.  The only trouble is that it’s not healthier.  This is especially disconcerting in products that claim to be health foods.  The FDA has issued a guidance that companies not use the term evaporated cane juice since the term hides the fact that it’s really sugar.  But this is only a guidance and not a ruling, companies continue to use the name.  In addition there is already a lawsuit pending claiming that Chobani yogurt’s ingredient list is misleading because evaporated cane juice sounds healthy.  It’s possible that labeling could change in the near future.

In the meantime, be sure to read nutritional food labels and ingredient lists and avoid products high in refined sugar including evaporated cane juice.  There’s nothing healthy about it.

nutritional food labels

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for personal, professional, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.