I saw Alicia Silverstone on tv recently talking about recipes in her book and saying that brown rice syrup is so much more natural and better for you than regular sugar. Natural…what does that even mean?!? According to the American Dietetic Association, both the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture have not formally defined this term yet. However, the FDA is sticking with its 1993 policy and “has not objected to the use of the term on food labels provided it is used in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Use of the term “natural” is not permitted in a product’s ingredient list, with the exception of the phrase “natural flavorings.”
Isn’t that scary that people are using terms that don’t have a formal definition yet set in place by the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture? I love Alicia Silverstone as an actress, but know she is not qualified to be giving out nutrition advice on tv and the sad thing is millions of viewers at home were probably listening to her every word. Sugar is sugar! Yes, each type may have a different molecular structure, but they all act very similar in the body and result in a similar amount of calories consumed.
Here are a few names of sugar you can find in the ingredients lists:
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Demerara Sugar
- Free Flowing Brown Sugars
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert Sugar
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
- Powdered or confectioner’s sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Turbinado sugar
I consulted McGee and here is how you make sugar and syrup from a starch (potato, corn or rice):
Refined Sugar – To make refined sugar there is a two step process. The first step involves the crystillation of raw, unrefined sugar in factories located in cane-producing tropical and sub-tropical countries. Raw sugar cane is washed and milled. Cane juice is then extracted and heat and lime is added to remove any inpurities. After the inpurities are removed, a dark brown syrup begins to crystallize. A centrifuge is then used to separte the molasses and raw sugar. The raw sugar is then transported to industrial countries, where the second step begins. During this step, the raw sugar is converted to refrined sugar.
Corn Syrup – To make a corn syrup, first the starch granules are extracted from the corn kernels. The starch granules are then treated with either acid, microbial, or malt enzymes. This process results in a sweet syrup that is then clarified, decolorized, and evaporated to an appropriate concentration.
As you can see, each of these types of sugar need to go through a process. They don’t end up in our mouths in their natural state as sugar cane, corn or rice. It is interesting that fructose syrups were invented in the 1960s when the U.S. started having a surplus of corn and potatoes. If we lived in South Asia and certain parts of Africa we may be eating more rice or using rice syrup, because that crop is grown in abundence.
As always – everything in moderation!
What types of sugar do you cook with the most?
On a side note: While I was trying to take this picture in a grocery store, a store employee came over to me and asked when I was giving a food demo. Haha…I must have looked like I knew what I was doing!