Monday, October 12, 2009

Gimme Some Sugar

If you're vegan, you're no doubt familiar with shopping for ethical foods. Since vegans don't eat anything that contains or is produced by animal by-products, there are more than a few foods on the 'no-no list'.

A lot of people are surprised to find out that sugar is actually one of these!

The reason why is, there are still companies that use (shudder) bone char to whiten their sugar. Most of the time it doesn't get into the finished product...but it's a pretty gross way to go about just making something whiter. So how to shop for a more ethical alternative?

Just do a little research! There are plenty of companies that are ethical in their sugar. Companies like Florida Crystals and Sugar in the Raw never use bone char. There are more and more companies, these days, turning to less objectionable methods, since more people are willing and able to write and communicate their distaste. Since there are so many special diets out there now, they are finding it less and less commercially viable to keep turning to potentially unappealing practices. Which is good, because it makes things healthier and better for everyone involved.

What about if you don't want to use cane sugar? Maybe you just don't want to fool with all this research rigamorole, and that's okay too. There are plenty of ways that you can do that.

Beet sugar is one way you can do this. Sugar that is derived from beets is not bone char-whitened and tastes just the same as cane sugar. Beet sugar was used to sweeten things for ages in Europe and so on before sugarcane was discovered and trade made it possible to use worldwide. Or, more accurately, before people from Europe discovered that there were other people in the world and that they were using a different sweetener.

Brown rice syrup is a syrup that is made from rice and adds a nice sweetness. It's one of the healthier sweeteners out there, and it's being seen in more and more stores.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that is generally always vegan-friendly in its preparation. It can be made into a syrup or a crystalline powder. It's got a great track record, having been used for decades in Japan since the country outlawed artificial sweeteners after health controversy. Stevia is a better choice for people who need to monitor sugar intake carefully. It's got a lot of really great qualities that make it an ideal option for careful diets.

Liquorice (the herb, not the candy) is another very sweet thing, but people who have kidney problems, cirrhosis, or high blood pressure need to be careful with it. Liquorice is actually several hundred times sweeter than sugar, and it's an extremely health-beneficial herb. But its intake needs to be very limited, especially if you have health problems that might be made worse by it. It's rare for it to have side effects, but better safe than sorry!

Agave nectar is nectar from the agave plant, naturally! It's a pretty succulent plant, like aloe. Agave nectar is nice and smooth, and it has a lot of qualities that make it similar to honey. A lot of people like to use agave nectar to sweeten drinks, because it's really good with tea and coffee. Be careful though, some companies add corn syrup to theirs. That's why it's always good to read the label!

And if you don't mind cane sugar but just would rather not have that gross bone thing going on...

Turbinado sugar is less processed sugar. Sugar in the Raw is turbinado sugar, and turbinado sugar doesn't require bleaching, which cuts out the whole icky 'bone char' thing.

Organic evaporated cane juice and dehydrated cane juice and organic cane sugar should not be exposed to bone char.

However, like any conscientious shopper, double-check! Use the internet, it's a great tool. If all else fails, write to companies or visit their websites; there are lots of them that list on their site whether or not their products are vegan and vegetarian-friendly, like Sugar in the Raw and Florida Crystals. It's a pretty big thing these days, and a lot of people are interested in it now.

So there you have it! There's also a really useful page here for you to look over. When you make the choice to be an ethical shopper, there is a lot to think about! But hopefully I've made it just a little easier for some of you.

So until next your health and mine!

};) Dhiar <3


  1. and date sugar, maple syrup, honey, fruit juices... yum! :)

  2. There are indeed a lot of alternatives to cane sugar. Honey wasn't mentioned due to its controversial nature, as to whether or not it is truly considered 'vegan' -- Dhiar just didn't want to open the proverbial can of worms, so there was just the list of a few items as an example.

    Lots of great natural sweeteners exist. I think it's pretty noteworthy that a lot of people can't think of any when they're challenged to mention one that isn't cane sugar, but I'm not sure what they thought people used before the 'New World' traded with Europe!

  3. All i can do is shudder thinking about bones being used in sugar... eeeewww...

  4. Stevia is also available some places in leaf form, dried or fresh. The dried leaves can be brewed as a "tea" which some people (myself included) find kills sugar cravings entirely if you drink it regularly (not just in the sense of it being sweet and therefore satisfying cravings, but actually things that are sweet don't seem appealing - a box of pocky went uneaten for an entire week the last time I did this).

    Stevia is good for your teeth, bloodpressure, and digestion, reduces hunger, is 300 times sweeter than sugar, and has no calories or glycemic index. Stevia "tea" can also be used like a simple sugar substitute, but don't go brewing an entire pitcher unless you're having a party, because will lose its sweetness after a couple of days.

  5. bloodraevynn, thanks so much for the information! I am really glad to see someone provide that valuable input, and I'm sure everyone is grateful to see it conveniently in one place. Isn't it great to find natural alternatives? :)

  6. A tomato thing

    2 kg of cherry tomatoes
    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    2-3 sprigs of thyme
    1 "handful" of oregano
    1-2 bay leaves
    1-2 sprigs of rosemary
    Black pepper
    olive oil
    balsamic vinegar

    optional: chili flakes

    Put the tomatoes in a baking dish and sprinkle with the chopped garlic. Add sprigs of thyme, oregano, bay leaves and sprig(s) of rosemary, douse with black pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over all and stir around.

    Cook for about three quarters of an hour at 195 F.

    Eat with fresh bread, chipped potatoes, or pasta. If there is any left over, heat and stir in a tablespoon of creme fraiche (substitute: sour cream) for soup.

    (what is creme fraiche? See:

  7. Recipe is off topic, but didn't think you'd mind. Feel free to post. Too good not to share!