How Do I Choose the Best Natural Sugar?

C.B. Fox

People who are trying to choose the best natural sugar should consider the cost of the sugar, the flavor and what it is being used for. Sugars are molecules that the body uses in the normal process of metabolism. Though sugar is not inherently unhealthy, consuming large quantities of any type of sugar may lead to health problems, including obesity. Chemically, there is not much difference between natural sugar and refined sugar, though many people are wary of consuming sugars that have been highly processed.

Stalks of sugar cane.
Stalks of sugar cane.

There are a few different types of natural sugar available. Most come from the same sources that refined sugars do, especially sugar cane. Sugars from these plants are extracted and then either left in liquid form, as in the case of sugar cane juice, or allowed to dry and crystalize, as in the case of dehydrated sugar cane juice or raw cane sugar. Sugar beets can also be used to make natural sugar crystals, though most sugar that comes from beets is processed and refined. There isn't much difference between these types of sugars though some people will have a preference for one or another.

Natural sugar.
Natural sugar.

Other sources of natural sugar include honey, agave syrup, and maple syrup. These sweet substances are primarily made up of sugars, though they contain other nutrients as well. They can be used instead of dried crystals of sugar, though when they are used in baked goods, the amount of liquid in the recipe may need to be adjusted. These sources of sugar have different flavors and are higher in calories than sugar from cane or beets.

The flavor of the natural sugar should be taken into account when choosing the best type. Maple syrup, agave syrup, and honey have distinctive flavors that can alter the flavor of a dish or a beverage that they are added to. Raw sugar has a cleaner flavor that is nearly the same as the flavor of refined sugar.

Cost is also a factor when choosing the best form of natural sugar. Most types are more expensive than processed sugar, even though manufacturers do less to them. Maple syrup and honey can be extremely expensive, especially when they are made locally or in boutique factories.

Many people who choose to eat natural sugar will also look for products that are organic. These sugars are more expensive, but they have been made without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. It may be possible to find natural sugar that is farmed sustainably or that comes from farms that guarantee that the farm workers are paid a fair wage.

Sugar beets are a source of sugar.
Sugar beets are a source of sugar.

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