What Is Refined Sugar?
Refined sugar. Somehow it sounds sophisticated, right? Like, “Oh yes, we will attend the tea party, but be sure to bring the refined sugar, dear. ”
Sadly, we must dispel that particular fantasy. Refined sugar is in no way fancier than other sugars. Quite the contrary, in fact; it is much worse for your health, and it’s hiding everywhere, including many places that you might not have suspected.
Today we will be discussing the realities of refined sugar. Namely what it is, where it comes from, and why you would do well to avoid it whenever possible.
Where Does Refined Sugar Come From?
So what is refined sugar exactly? This question is somewhat multifaceted. There is the question of what refined sugar is made from, but there’s also what it’s made into. Both are relevant when properly understanding the nature of refined sugar, so let’s address them one at a time.
Refined sugar comes primarily from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn which is heavily processed to extract the concentrated sugars or “sucrose” that they contain. Essentially producers of refined sugar take a plant, squeeze all the sugar out, and then turn it into one of several products to be used in baking or added to foods.
Hopefully, seeing the words “heavily” and “processed” next to each other is already setting off red flags for your inner nutritionist. If not, don’t worry. We’ll explain all about why you want to avoid these processed sugars.
The Big Names in Sugar
While refined sugars assume many forms and have an equally diverse number of ways to end up in your kitchen, there are two that appear more frequently than the rest.
Granulated Sugar (Table Sugar)
Granulated sugar comes primarily from the sugar cane plant. To make it, the cane is crushed between two massive rollers to extract the juices. Then it’s sifted, filtered, boiled, and left to evaporate and spin in a centrifuge until you get those little grainy bits that you see people stirring into their coffee or sprinkling onto muffins and the like.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (“HFC”)
HFC is made by first milling corn and processing it to make corn syrup. Then enzymes are added, which increase its fructose content, effectively making it sweeter. In the end, you wind up with a viscous ooze that is at least as bad for you as granulated sugar.
This stuff is no joke. It’s basically the main antagonist for the average person trying to maintain a healthy diet, especially here in America. The jury is still out on whether it’s actually better or worse for you than granulated sugar, but one thing is for certain: It. Is. Everywhere.
That’s right, everywhere! We are talking sodas, juices, baked goods, sports drinks, jams and jellies, pickles, fruit cups, ice cream, chocolate, soups, canned vegetables, fast food, condiments, salad dressings, breakfast cereals—the list goes on and on.
Oh, and did we mention that it’s in most candies? Yeah, no surprise there.
Luckily, if you are looking for a delicious alternative treat that is low calorie, low sugar, and safe for vegan and keto diets, try our Perfectly Pleasant Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar or our Deviously Delicious White Chocolate Bar With Crispy Almond Pieces! No refined sugar, no matter how crafty, makes it into our products.
Sugar Is Hiding in Plain Sight
We’ve talked about two big types of refined sugars featured in many of our foods, but what about the smoother criminals of the sucrose world? Not everyone is as brazen with their crimes as high fructose corn syrup.
Some sugars prefer to hide under pseudonyms in order to sneak past your defenses. Here are some of refined sugar’s known aliases so that next time, you won’t be fooled.
- Brown sugar
- Cane crystals
- Corn sweetener
- Crystalline fructose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
Why Do Companies Use These Alternative Names?
Companies love to use ingredient names like “maltose” in order to achieve one of two things.
- They make their ingredients sound natural and less processed in an effort to put you at ease (agave nectar, fruit juice concentrates).
- They try to use ingredients with names that sound like they come from a science textbook in the hopes that you will be too lazy to actually parse out what they are. When it comes to ingredients like maltose and dextrose, many of us fall for these little deceptions on a regular basis just because of the confusing name.
Even those of us who are diligent in policing what goes into our bodies are liable to be tricked. For those on keto or vegan diets that are trying to cut way back on sugar, it’s doubly important to be on the lookout.
The Price of Using Refined Sugars
In this case, we aren’t referring to a monetary cost but rather the long list of nutrition and health risks that regular consumption of processed sugars can pose.
Ever since you first fell in love with cake as a child, you’ve probably been told not to eat too much sugar. “It will give you cavities,” they said, or “you’ll get a stomach ache if you eat all that candy.”
Unfortunately, we are here to tell you that all those people from your youth were telling the truth, although maybe not the whole truth. Refined sugar can give you cavities or a stomach ache. However, it’s capable of even more serious afflictions in the long term.
Because it is so concentrated, the sucrose in refined sugar is absorbed into your body, and the starches are processed more quickly. This is what results in that buzz you will sometimes get before inevitably crashing. Likewise, excess sugar causes you to gain weight as the compounds are absorbed.
Weight gain isn’t just about packing on a few extra pounds, either. Eating too much refined sugar will also affect your insulin levels and blood sugar and put you at risk of diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to cut back on your sugar intake and still bake some delicious treats, check out our magazine! It’s full of free articles and recipes so you can get more info and find the chocolatey goodness you crave without having to worry about all the potential side effects of refined sugar.
This is a big one because it’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sugar. Nevertheless, it is true. Refined sugar has many negative effects on skin health, including increasing the chance of acne and visible signs of aging.
What About Non-Refined Sugar?
So, we’ve told you all about why you should avoid refined sugar. Now, you’re probably wondering whether a non-refined sugar like coconut sugar is better for you.
Unfortunately, unrefined sugar still has a lot of the same problems as refined sugar does. For example, coconut sugar doesn’t contain any extra nutrients like vitamins and minerals that would give you a health boost. Unrefined sugar also has the same impact on your bloodstream. It can have a similar impact on your skin and weight, so just switching to non-refined sugar may not be the solution you were hoping for.
Instead, your best bet is to look for products with no sugar added, so you don’t have to worry about any of these added compilations. Instead, stick with natural sweeteners or products like our sugar-free maple syrup.
Not So Sweet After All
Hopefully, you find yourself better equipped to combat the forces of refined sugar and added sugar after reading our article. It’s not a losing battle! There are many alternatives to refined sugars, as well as recipes and ingredients that will help you make delicious treats with half the sugar!
If you are desperate to make some low-sugar chocolate chip cookies or gluten-free brownies, MiiRO has your back. Check out our chocolate baking chips. They are vegan, keto-friendly, and low-sugar. Plus, they have the added benefit of being packed with chocolatey creamy goodness!
So take what you’ve learned, get out there, and show those refined sugars that you are tired of their nonsense!