Not All Sugars Are Vegan

Various wooden spoons holding various kinds of sugar on a wooden table

Following a vegan diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways you can live ethically, reduce your carbon footprint, and incorporate healthy and natural foods into your diet. It's not always easy to completely remove animal products from your meals, though. Several seemingly vegan foods actually contain animal products. If you're trying to stick to a plant-based diet, you must conduct careful research to ensure none of your staple foods contain any hidden non-vegan ingredients.

You might be surprised to hear that not all sugars are truly vegan. Although sugar doesn't directly contain any animal products, some sugars are refined with bone char, which is made from animals. If you want to steer away from products that use animals in any way, shape, or form, you must be careful with your sugar choices.

Fortunately, vegans don't have to cut sugar out of their diet. Once you learn what products and labels to look for, you can continue enjoying sweet treats without harming any animals in the process.

Is Cane Sugar Vegan?

The Vegetarian Resource Group reports that most sugar sold on the shelves in the United States is refined with cow bone char. This is what gives white granulated sugar its bright color.

The various types of sugar we see in the supermarket come from two main plant sources: sugarcane and sugar beets. According to the VRG, about 50 percent of the market uses sugarcane, which is almost always refined with animal bones. Sugar derived from sugar beets is not refined with bone char, but it can be difficult or impossible to know which source your sugar is coming from when you buy it from one of the major brands. If you do buy sugar that's marketed specifically as refined cane sugar, you should assume it's processed with animal products unless the label says otherwise.

Is Brown Sugar Vegan?

At first glance, a generic brown sugar might look like a more natural alternative to white sugar or cane sugar. Brown foods tend to be healthier than unnaturally white foods, right?

Unfortunately, this isn't the case when it comes to your sugar choices. Most brown sugar is made simply by adding molasses to refined sugar. If the refined sugar was produced with bone char, this means that the brown sugar is not vegan.

Is Powdered Sugar Vegan?

By this point, you can probably predict the answer to this question. Like brown sugar and white sugar, most powdered sugars that you'll find in your grocery store aren't vegan or can't be confirmed to be vegan.

Typically, powdered sugar is produced and refined in the same way as other sugars. It's often bleached with bone char to give it its bright white color, which means that animal products were involved in its production. The only real difference between powdered sugar and granulated sugar is the texture. Powdered sugar is ground more finely to make it lighter.

Where to Find Vegan Sugar

If you follow a vegan lifestyle, it can be frustrating to hear that so many forms of sugar aren't vegan. The good news, though, is that there are 100-percent vegan sugars on the market; you simply have to know what to look for.

According to PETA, any sugar that is labeled "organic" cannot use bone char. The USDA mandates that organic sugars must not be filtered through bone char, so this alone will narrow down your search for vegan options. Not only do organic products skip harming animals, but they also tend to be made with higher-quality ingredients.

If a sugar you're interested in isn't organic, you can check the label to see if it's unrefined. This means that it hasn't been processed with bone char, so it should be completely plant-based. If you're concerned about accidentally buying non-vegan food, though, you could simply stick to sugars that advertise themselves as being vegan. This will remove a lot of the confusion and uncertainty from your search.

Go Vegan with Big Country Foods

 A bag of Big Country cane sugar sitting on a marble countertop beside a bowl of flour, jar of milk, and some blueberries

At Big Country Foods, we pride ourselves on using vegan and organic ingredients. All of our sugars are made without harming animals in any way, so they make safe, excellent additions to a plant-based diet. We know how important it is to choose natural, ethical foods, so our mission is to provide delicious and high-quality sugars that align with your values.

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