Food Science

What Is Evaporated Cane Juice?

For years, we have been enjoying the sweet aromatic flavors of various juices and enjoying the benefits of their nutritional value. From vitamins and minerals to protein and fiber, each nutrient adds value to our health in some way or the other. As years passed by, with development in the fields of science and technology, various methods were introduced and implemented in extracting juice from fruit and further processing them to produce different products, such as sugar from sugarcane.

Sugar has been a part of our lives for several centuries, satiating our cravings and offering a pleasant experience. It wasn’t until several decades ago that the health effects of sugar made its way into a controversy that raised several questions. After decades of research, it was determined that sugar has adverse effects on our health. Sugar is behind several health problems such as diabetes, fatty liver, liver failure, and heart diseases, among several others. Due to these adverse effects, there came a need to find a healthy substitute for sugar, that could be used to replace it in our day to day lives.

History of Evaporated Cane Juice

The domestication of sugarcane originated about 10,000 years ago in New Guinea. Though the domestication is ancient and mainly in the New Guinea area, over several decades, the plant spread westward throughout the globe. It was widely grown in India. It wasn’t until the Indians imparted the secrets of how to process sugarcane into sugar to the Moors that sugar began its expansion. It was in the 8th century that the Moors learned the process, conquered Spain, and paved the way for sugar to be produced in all parts of Europe.  

Christopher Columbus carried sugarcane seedlings to the New World in 1493 during his voyage, which was followed by European countries quickly introducing the cultivation of sugarcane to their colonies in the Caribbean Islands and South America. Several sugar refineries were built, and the type of sugar produced varied in size, color, molasses content, and form, depending on the process and technique used to produce them and the region in which it was produced.

Over the years, due to developments in processing, the move towards the creation of refined sugar was made. Refined sugar, which was referred to as white gold because of its cost, was being produced and sold almost all over the world. It wasn’t until the health risk of sugar was realized that people started showing interest in healthier options. Owing to an increased emphasis on whole foods, as well as health and nutrition, a more natural and less processed form of sugar cane was introduced, such as evaporated cane juice.

What Is Evaporated Cane Juice?

If you are one of those people who don’t rush through the ingredients in packaged food, but instead look closely, then you must have noticed evaporated cane juice in any one of the labels. But what exactly is evaporated cane juice? Is it a juice, a syrup, or a sweetener in a granulated form?

Evaporated cane juice is a sweetener derived from the fluid extract of sugar cane. The term ‘evaporated cane juice’ is used by the food industry to refer to a sweetener that encompasses processed, crystallized sugarcane juice. In simple, evaporated cane juice is a crystallized sweetener, boasting of a golden hue and very similar to refined white sugar, but that has undergone only slightly less processing. 

What Is Evaporated Cane Sugar?

Evaporated cane sugar is a less-processed and more nutritious form of cane sugar. When compared to its counterparts, white sugar or brown sugar, a certain amount of nutrients that are found in sugarcane are retained by evaporated cane sugar, as it eliminates most of the refining steps that strip them of their nutrients.

You may have come across a number of ‘natural’ or ‘less-refined’ sugar products in the market. These products are nothing but different refined sugar, as they must follow all the basic purification guidelines in order to be sold in the country. But what the consumers fail to see is the refining process being hidden as ‘filtration’ and ‘purification’ processes by large companies. This is the case with evaporated cane sugar, the crystallized remains of sap extracted from the sugar cane. To be sold in the market, the sap has to go through the filtration and purification process before it is evaporated to form sugar granules.

Now the question is, is evaporated cane sugar different than evaporated cane juice? The two are one and the same and are used interchangeably by the food industry. Evaporated cane juice is known by a variety of other names, such as crystallized cane juice, dried cane juice, unrefined sugar, direct consumption sugar, and milled cane sugar. It comes in a variety of forms and also varies in flavor and texture, but all types share the characteristic of a dark color compared to refined white sugar.

A few of them include:

  • Muscovado: It is a very fine crystal sugar with a very distinctive molasses flavor.
  • Milled Cane: It has golden colored, small-grained crystals with a subtle molasses flavor.
  • Demerara: It is made of coarser-grained and slightly sticky crystals with a noticeable molasses flavor.
  • Jaggery: It’s an unrefined cane sugar that is popular in India and some parts of Asia
  • Rapadura: It isn’t technically considered evaporated cane juice, but it is an alternative natural cane sugar with roots in Latin American countries. It undergoes even simpler processing than evaporated cane juice.

Both Rapudara and Jaggery may not be considered as evaporated cane juice, as their classification depends on their process. 

Benefits of Evaporated Cane Juice

Like sugar, evaporated cane sugar offers a lot of benefits that include:

  • It is a vital ingredient to add taste to the food product.
  • When used in its caramelized form, it adds flavor to foods.
  • Evaporated cane juice adds color and texture when added to food.
  • It is essential for the fermentation of soy sauce, bread, and yogurt.
  • It helps prevent baked goods from becoming stale and dry.
  • It is essential to preserve the color of frozen fruits products.

These benefits may look very basic, but without sugar, the cookie that you love so much wouldn’t taste as it does now, nor would a piece of delicious-looking bread be fluffy and soft. 

How to Differentiate White Evaporated Cane Juice and Refined Sugar

To understand the difference between evaporated cane juice and white refined sugar – also called evaporated cane sugar, it is important to first understand how both are manufactured. The initial steps of processing are generally the same for all products that are produced using sugar cane. 

Evaporated Cane Juice Manufacturing Process

  • Step 1: The sugarcane is first harvested from the fields and transported to the nearest processing unit where it is cleaned. 
  • Step 2: The cleaned sugar cane is then cut or shredded and mashed to extract the fluid. The process is called milling. As sugarcane is highly degradable, it must be milled the same day that it is harvested.
  • Step 3: After the milling process, slaked lime is used to filter the liquid with an intention to remove dirt and debris that remains. It then undergoes an evaporation process where it is boiled to remove most of the water in the juice. In this process, the extracted fluid is clarified and then evaporated to produce a concentrated syrup.
  • Step 4: The concentrated syrup is then filtered, after which it goes through a single crystallization process.  
  • Step 5: Next, the crystals are passed through a centrifuge briefly that removes the molasses that are still present.

There may be some variations in the process, with some manufacturers passing the concentrated syrup through the centrifuge briefly to remove molasses. Once the syrup is cleaned off molasses, it is dried and cured, forming crystallized masses. Organic evaporated cane juice is made using sugarcane that is raised as per the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s organic standards. It is produced without any sewage or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, ionizing radiation, or bioengineering.

Refined White Sugar Manufacturing Process

The initial steps of manufacturing refined white sugar are the same as evaporated cane juice. The sugarcane is harvested, cleaned, shredded, and the juice is extracted. The extracted juice is then dried and called raw sugar. The raw sugar that is mentioned in some labels and those that you get in the market are not the same, as these contain impurities. Selling any food items that contain impurities is against food regulations. This sugar is filtered to cleanse it of impurities and to enable it to be sold in the market.

To convert raw sugar into refined white sugar, raw sugar is boiled and then passed through a carbon or membrane filtration system. The resulting product is then dried and milled into crystals. The final product contains 99.6 percent sucrose. 

Health Effects

Every once in a while, you have the urge to eat something sweet, savor the taste, and lose yourself in it. What is the first thing that you reach for in your kitchen? Hopefully, not the box of refined white sugar! That’s not a good idea, as it is associated with devastating health conditions, such as adult-onset diabetes and colon cancer, as it is an over-processed food product. Other artificial sweeteners too are not a good option, as some may be worse than refined white sugar. Poor concentration, headache, auto-immune diseases, and attention deficit disorder are some of the health problems associated with certain artificial sweeteners.

Fortunately, to satiate the sweet taste buds on your tongue, there are certain sweeteners that are organic or natural. They are less refined than the regular refined white sugar and other artificial sweeteners, one of them being evaporated cane juice. It is not associated with any health problems if used in moderation. Although some experts argue that all sugar is evaporated cane juice, it is considered better than refined sugar, as it is not refined and does not go through extensive processing.

Other Differences

All sugar is sugar, that’s true. But not every sugar is the same. A few of the major differences between refined white sugar and evaporated cane juice are:

  • White sugar is also known as regular or table sugar, and it is either made from sugar beets or sugarcane. No matter what it is made from, both go through the filtration process to decolorize the sugar. The evaporated cane juice, as the name suggests, comes from sugarcane. The sugarcane juice is extracted, filtered, evaporated, and then crystallized and cured. It is usually tan in color and also has a slight molasses flavor.
  • The nutritional makeup of both refined white sugar and evaporated cane juice are very similar. Neither of the two sweeteners is a good source of many nutrients like vitamins, minerals, or fiber. One ounce of refined white sugar contains 111 calories, which is the same for both. While refined sugar contains 99.9 percent carbohydrate, 99.8 percent of it is sucrose, with the remaining having some traces of iron, potassium, calcium, manganese and copper. Evaporated cane juice contains 0.16 mgs of riboflavin, 0.2 mgs of protein, 0.2 mgs of niacin, 0.6 mgs of iron, 0.7 mgs of insoluble fiber, 2.5 mgs of magnesium, 32.57 mgs of calcium, and 162.8 mgs of potassium. As evaporated cane juice is not as highly processed as refined white sugar, it retains at least some of the nutrition found in sugar cane. 
  • Both, refined white sugar and evaporated cane juice are considered to be added sugar, as they are added to food to improve their taste. Organic evaporated cane juice might be the better choice, as it contains fewer drug-resistant bacteria, as well as pesticides. 

Types of Canesugar

Sugar is an ingredient in almost every food product, whether it is labeled as it is or hidden as evaporated cane juice or high fructose corn syrup. While many consider sugar to be sugar, it is important to know that there are many forms of cane sugar, and they are not created equally. While some perform better in providing the taste that you seek, others are better for your health. 

As much as sugar enhances the taste and flavor, it is also important to know which type of sugar is best suited for you. Seven different types of sugar are processed using sugarcane. They are divided into crystallized sugar and non-crystalized sugar and include the following:

Crystallized Canesugar

Crystalized canesugar is further divided into single crystallization sugar and double crystallization sugar. They include:

  • Organic cane sugar: It is a single crystallization sugar with traces of molasses. It is golden in color, and has a mildly fruity or floral aroma and flavor. 
  • Conventional white sugar: It is a double crystallization sugar which is whitened using carbon filtration. It is available in many crystal sizes such as fine, ultrafine, baker’s special, caster, and sanding sugar.
  • Brown sugar: It is a combination of molasses and crystalized sugar and is made using different processes. There are two methods of producing brown sugar, which cause variation in size, color, and stickiness. 
  • Confectioners’ sugar: It is also known as icing sugar or powdered sugar and is made from very finely ground conventional white sugar or organic cane sugar. 
  • Liquid and invert sugar: They are made from conventional white sugar or organic cane sugar. It is simply crystallized sugar dissolved in water for application where sugar needs to be dissolved.
  • Evaporated cane sugar: Known by several other names, such as Demerara, Turbinado, or simply as raw sugar, tit is a single crystallization sugar that has large, well-formed crystals.

Non-Crystalized Canesugar

It includes whole canesugar, also called evaporated sugar or non-crystallized sugars. They form a solid block after they cool down to room temperature. They have high molasses content and also have an affinity to absorb water. As they are not free-flowing, they are difficult to handle on a large scale.

The Adverse Effects of Sugar on Health

When it comes to adverse effects of sugar, no matter the type of sugar that is used, it is simply sugar! It has always been seen as a product that is harmful to health. We often hear about how bad it is in terms of causing diabetes. But did you know, sugar causes other health problems as well? You may use refined white sugar, or the less dangerous evaporated cane juice, but both can affect your health negatively.

  • It causes the glucose levels to spike. Unstable sugar in your blood can cause headaches, fatigue, and mood swings. It also contributes to cravings and cycles of false hunger. 
  • It increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, as well as heart disease. The food you take affects your blood sugar and contributes to health risks. The risks are often seen as a result of added sugar in the diet. 
  • It affects the immune system, as it interferes with the way the body fights disease. As bacteria and yeast feed on sugar, excess sugar or glucose can cause more harm.
  • A diet high in sugar can lead to chromium deficiency. Chromium is a trace mineral that helps to regulate blood sugar and is found in meat, seafood, and some plant foods.
  • Sugar accelerates aging by contributing to wrinkles and sagging skin. When you consume sugar, it attaches to a protein in the bloodstream. When it is mixed with protein, it causes the skin to lose elasticity.
  • Tooth decay is inevitable when your sugar consumption is more than the required minimum. Sugar can cause decay more quickly and efficiently than any other food, and hence, it is important to brush regularly. 
  • Sugar consumption can cause gum disease, which can, in turn, lead to heart disease. The connection between gum and heart disease stems from your body’s inflammatory response to infection.
  • It affects cognition in children who consume sugar in their lunches and breakfasts.
  • It increases stress. Under stress, your body releases hormones and kicks in the fight or flight mode, wherein your blood sugar spikes on eating sweets. The end result is unexplained irritability and anxiousness.
  • It takes the place of important nutrients, as sugar makes you feel full, and you will ultimately fail to eat healthy food. 

Now that you know the adverse health effects of sugar, it is vital to be more cautious of what you eat, as most food products that are mass-produced have sugar, which is always hidden under fancy names.

Alternatives to Evaporated Cane Sugar

Sugar is associated with several adverse effects on health, as mentioned above. From obesity to diabetes and heart problems, sugar is known to cause more harm than help. When it comes to health, evaporated cane juice is still considered to be regular sugar, and alternatives may be sought. 

Other alternatives to evaporated corn juice include the following:

  • Date sugar: Made from one of nature’s sweetest fruits, date sugar is simply dehydrated ground dates. It consists of all the nutritional value of dates, like iron and vitamin A, and it is also high in fiber. 
  • Stevia: Being 200 to 300 times sweeter than evaporated cane juice, Stevia is considered one of the best alternatives to sugar. As it has a low glycemic index rating, it does not change the blood sugar. The only minus is that it may have a bitter aftertaste.
  • Agave nectar: It is the juice from the agave plant, and like Stevia, it has a low glycemic rating. It is 42 percent sweeter than evaporated cane juice and is the succulent that is used to make tequila.
  • Honey: It is one of the oldest sweeteners used by man and a great substitute for evaporated cane juice. Raw and unprocessed honey is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is considered to be a superfood which has the ability to treat several ailments.
  • Xylitol: It is a natural sugar that is found in plants and fruits. It has anti-cavity and anti-bacterial qualities and is safe for use during pregnancy as well. It is known to cure yeast and bacterial infections. The only minus is that it can cause diarrhea and bloating.

Controversy Behind Evaporated Cane Juice

People who are cautious of their health make an effort to always check the ingredients before purchasing any mass-produced food items. When it comes to the food label, each ingredient must be questioned and understood properly to determine whether the product meets the transparency expectations. Evaporated cane juice became a part of one such controversy where its transparency was questioned. 

The term ‘evaporated cane juice’ has been long used by the food industry to define a sweetener that holds processed, crystallized sugar cane juice. As evaporated cane juice was considered a healthier option, consumers started to question whether the label was to make consumers believe that it is healthier than it actually is. Dozens of consumers filed a suit against companies claiming the term is being used to mislead customers, and to disguise the fact that companies are using regular sugar.

The FDA weighed in on the usage of the term and drafted guidance regarding the practice. It also released a warning to manufacturers that the practice is misleading. Furthermore, the FDA also released guidance stating that the term should not be used by manufacturers to describe the sweetener that is derived from the fluid extract of sugar cane. The FDA agreed that the term is confusing and misleading, as it does not accurately describe the ingredient’s characterizing properties and basic nature. FDA also mentioned that the term ‘juice’ was confusing, as there are more common meanings for juice, and it usually refers to liquid extracted from fruits and vegetables.

The FDA published guidance and recommended manufacturers to use the term ‘dried cane syrup’ instead of ‘evaporated cane juice.’ Manufacturers objected to the term, and the FDA dropped the recommendation. Now, the FDA has recommended the use of the term ‘sugar,’ as it describes the ingredient’s characterizing properties and its basic nature. The term ‘sugar’ was non-misleading and more truthful.

It is unfortunate that, even though the FDA has issued guidelines regarding the use of the term ‘sugar’ instead of ‘evaporated corn juice’, the recommendation is not a legally binding document. The impact of this ruling is that manufacturers may refuse the use of the term ‘sugar’ and use any other substitute instead. It is up to the manufacturers to ask themselves if the battle is worth fighting for.

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