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Cane and Beet Sugar, Revisited

SugarSpiritLogoSquare1I keep finding information about sugar in unexpected places. Previously as part of the Sugar Spirit project I read this from, the sugar industry's website:

Sugar is simply separated from the beet or cane plant, and the result is 99.95% pure sucrose (sugar). The sucrose from sugar beets and sugar cane is not only identical to one another, but each is the same as the sucrose present in fruits and vegetables.

But I've come across some contradictory statements in a different book. I've been reading Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food: A Grocer's Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food and learning a lot about buying food. The book is very anti-GMO. In the section on sugar, it says.

Beet sugar falls short in multiple ways: it does not melt as smoothly or caramelize as readily, and in baked goods it produces inferior texture and flavor. For the best flavor, texture, and overall quality, buy sugar that specifically states "pure cane sugar" on the package. 

I suppose the difference between commercial pure cane sugar and beet sugar must be due to processing if once we get it down to sucrose it is identical. Anyone have experience with using "pure cane sugar" vs regular granulated sugar? Maybe I should visit the store.   

Furthermore the Bi Rite book asserts sugar beets are almost always GMO, and any conventional sugar is typically heavily sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. (Yet that must mean American sugar beets, as there are restrictions on GMO products in Europe.) Thus they recommend buying organic sugar (except when using it to make candy as granulated is better for this). 

Sugar: it turns out there is a lot to know. 

The Sugar Spirit Project is sponsored by Bacardi Rum. Content created and owned by Camper English for Alcademics. For the project index, click on the logo above or follow this link.


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Christopher Carlsson

I think it is a question of processing.
Go into a supermarket in france and the sugar can be quite different in texture depending on the source.
Then of course one can also get into the thicket about alcohol - grape vs. beet sugar alcohol vs. cane juice for various products such as absinthe, not to rhum agricole etc., etc.,
But yes, the beet sugar stuff seems a bit more crudely made or processed - must be a by product of some sort of cellulose difference I would think - never mind the palm sugars and other variants.
As to pure cane vs.granulated , it is more or less that pure cane sugar is just that - no beets involved ( as in sugar from the two sources mixed in )


Sugar is generally, and nearly exclusively processed with one thing: good clean water. It's a total mystery to me (as a scientist) why there is an absurd notion out there that 'processed' sugar is bad - as you point out, it's already 99.5%+ pure in it's initial form. Further, sugar cane is BURNED before it's pulped and processed, which is required to remove the bugs, animal bits, plant parts, char, etc. from the initial grind product. So, yes, molasses does have some interesting flavors and textures, but it also has a lot more random (and possibly unhealthy) pyrolysis products. The extra 'nutrients' that are often talked about are negligible to people with a Western diet. Sugar beets are not burned, and make a nice clean sugar that is used in pretty much everything. Sure, it's going to have a very minor difference in the 0.05% of trace left in purified sugar. But here in Michigan, we primarily use beet sugar for everything and have ZERO problems with anything from carmels and on. The quality here of, say, Pioneer sugar is as nice or nicer than the cane sugar we get. In fact, there are multiple beet sugar based alchols being produced. As for the GMO thing, and as a person that actually was (tangentally) in that field for a couple years, the GMO issue is pretty much hooey. With all the actual problems we have with extinction, overpopulation, and environmental change, the GMO issue is nothing worth mentioning.

Camper English

Sugar is not pure in its initial form but after lots of processing. Check out this post:

I don't think people want less processed sugar because it's more healthy (at least I never thought of it that way), but closer to its natural state.

And well, the GMO thing is lots of problems and solutions wrapped up in one.


The GMO thing is nothing....yah, OK. If it is nothing but fooey, then why not label it as such rather than fool people into thinking its cane, which is what they do with 99% of all foods nowadays. Dishonesty in labelling raises a red flag to me. Want to know what GMO does to your body? Watch this If they try to charge, you may be able to find on YouTube for free.

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