Sugar Sugar, oh....Honey Honey

Okay! It is time to break down sugar. Literally. Different sugars break down differently in our bodies. That's what makes certain sugars more or less bad for you. I had originally intended to write one massive blog post on all the sugars but as I researched more and more types of sugar popped up for me to research. So today I am sticking with discussing SUGARCANE 

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Chemistry & Research

So this section of the reading is a little bit more dry than the others but if you need to know the "Whys" behind it all please read it. If you want to know "Whats the point?" Please skip to the section Conclusion

To the left are the chemical make ups of the main types of sugars (not including sugar alcohols and sugar substitutes) 



"Glucose a simple monosaccharide sugar, is one of the most important carbohydrates and is used as a source of energy in animals and plants. Glucose is one of the main products of photosynthesis and starts respiration. The natural form (D-glucose) is also referred to as dextrose, especially in the food industry." (World of Molecules)

  • Regulates the hormone insulin.

  • Insulin controls two other hormones: ghrelin & leptin which regulate your appetite. 

  • Ghrelin tells your body you are hungry and Leptin tells your body when to stop eating.

  • Ghrelin stops being released when insulin is present telling you that you are not hungry. 

  • Simultaneously leptin kicks in wen insulin is present to tell you that you are full.

Fructose, unlike glucose, doesn't release insulin so therefore it won't signal to your body when you are full. This is why you wonder how you can eat candy bars on candy bars and never feel full.

Insulin helps sugars be absorbed into your bloodstream so without it fructose goes straight to your liver.The liver converts fructose directly into fat or eventually glucose. While glucose spikes blood sugar levels and causes insulin secretions. Since fructose is metabolized in the liver, it is important to not consume too much as it puts much stress on your liver and intestines. 

When fructose is turned into fat, it turns into visceral fat (surrounding your organs) "tummy fat"  Tummy fat is known to cause health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also been found to affect the heart by growing the heart muscle. Do not be confused I will explain all of this! The goal is to not avoid sugar, in fact our brain needs 130g of glucose per day. Our bodies can metabolize small amounts of fructose too. It is when we consume large amounts of these chemicals that there becomes a problem.


The chemical bond on glucose and fructose. This takes longer for your body to break down since it requires your small intestine to separate the bond. 

From Sugarcane

The process: Sugarcane is harvested (leaving the base of the plant since sugar cane is a renewable resource and can regrow from the left over base of the stalk.) The harvested plant then is cut into strips and a HUGE roller crushes it which creates a liquidy mess of crushed plant lol. This mess it cleaned up by having the fibers removed from the liquid. It is then chemically clarified (leaving pure sucrose). This liquid then goes into a container to be heated to evaporate liquid until it forms crystals. The crystals are removed from the liquid (1) and dried by being spun in a turbine. What is left is sugar granules. This is the basic explanation but this process varies depending on the type of sugar:

(These are listed in order of how processed they are.)

Sucanat: Reverse a few steps in the process and stop right before the liquid is chemically clarified. Take the strained liquid (when we removed the sugarcane fibers) and we are now going to boil this. From there it is paddled (yes paddled) until the crystals are formed. This results in a chemical makeup of all three: sucrose primarily, glucose, and fructose. This holds some nutrients that sugarcane has.

(1) Molasses: Or (blackstrap molasses) Okay, go back to the original process. When the crystals are removed from the liquid…..that liquid, that’s molasses. It is then left to allow some moisture to leave and what is left is a thick dark syrup. Molasses has some of the nutrients left in it.

Turbinado, Cane Sugar, Sugar in the Raw, Demerara sugar: All the same thing. The name turbinado is derived from the process of drying the crystals using a turbine. It holds some nutrients such as small traces (very small traces, less than sucanat and molasses) of potassium, iron, magnesium, & calcium. Raw cane sugar typically still has some molasses in it which gives it the brown color. This typically has more moisture in it and technically has less calories than white sugar per gram because of the moisture.


Basically the whole process described above.  


White Granulated Sugar: This is what most people mean when they say the word sugar.

So take the raw cane sugar from the last description and get ready for refinement! They take the raw cane sugar and add a warm syrup to it to dissolve the molasses from it. This is then spun in a turbine again to remove the dissolved molasses and syrup from the sugar crystals. These crystals are removed from the “second molasses” and melted down. It then goes through two more processes which are carbonization and decolorization to make the liquid as pure sucrose as possible. This liquid is then boiled to evaporate the liquid then dried with hot air. What is left, my friends, is white granulated sugar. Even processes for you?


Brown Sugar: Combination of molasses and white granulated sugar. The difference between light brown sugar and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses added to it. The darker, the "better" it is for you. Brown sugar has still been through the complete processing cycle so it contains the harmful chemicals as white sugar does.


Okay now I am going to throw you guys through a loop by bringing up Sugarbeets. Over 50% of white granulated sugar in the USA is made from sugarbeets. It goes through basically the same processes except instead of sugarcane, it is beets that are sliced, smashed, and chemically processed. “Some beet sugar brands you might recognize are: Crystal Sugar, Holly Sugar, Western Sugar, Big Chief Sugar, Pioneer Sugar, White Satin, and Spreckels Sugar.” (American Sugar Beet)


All of these sugars typically have an equal amount of sucrose. Which means our body metabolizes each of these equally. If you want to use a cane sugar based sweetener your best bet is Sucanat which contains the most nutrients from the sugarcane and even a little fiber. Your next best bet is molasses. Staying away from the highly processed white granulated sugar and brown sugar is a good idea. Our bodies don't need to consume something so chemically processed. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more information on other sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar, agave, corn syrup and many more. I will be comparing all of these to tell my readers what the best sweeteners are aka the least harmful to our bodies.

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-Michelle Mills

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