Is sugar vegan? This question causes a debate amongst some advocates of non-animal diets. Here are some details to clarify both sides of the issue.
First, there is white sugar. Two types exist: those that are made from cane sugar, and those that are made with beets. Although beet sugar does not need to be filtered, the other type – cane sugar – is refined with charcoal, which at times is made from animal bone matter.
Now, some vegans don’t mind consuming refined white sugar from sugar cane since they only look at the ingredients. Those that are vegan because they are against the use of any animal by-product in the full making of sugar will disagree. They will choose to purchase either beet sugar or raw sugar instead, or another form of sweetener altogether.
In the UK, for example, Tate and Lyle and Billingtons sugars are free of any animal by-product. Silver Spoon’s white sugar is vegan, but the brown one may not as it is refined with charcoal.
Brown sugar, on the other hand, is just white sugar with molasses added. Many people will argue that this is the healthier of the two sugars, but I beg to differ. Brown sugar, or as they call it in French, ‘cassonade’, is not the real, original brown sugar that most claim to be the healthy alternative. Same goes for powdered sugar: it is simply crushed white sugar. Non-refined, non-processed sugar, such as panela/jaggery or pure and raw cane sugar, which are naturally brown (light or dark), are the types that are truly healthier as all their original nutrients are still in the sweet-tasting delight we all know and therefore, have some health benefits that ‘cassonade’ does not. However, please note that to receive any benefit from this added nutrition, one must eat quite a large quantity, so the point is rather a moot one.
Other forms of vegan alternatives to plain white sugar include fructose, dextrose, turbinado sugar, organic evaporated cane juice, organic dehydrated cane juice and organic cane sugar. Sucrose is not guarantee vegan, so a bit of research is necessary.
As for ordinary white sugar, which is not vegan and can actually be made from GMO products, always verify. Here is a list of the types of sugar that are confirmed as being vegan.
A head’s up for those who are also avoiding GMOs: please read this article for details on why beet sugar in the US (and therefore perhaps in Canada as well) is not good for you.
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