Sweet treats tantalise our taste buds often in the form of fruits, desserts, jams, snack bars, and breakfast cereals to name a few. However, children hear it from their parents and health-conscious adults have their trainers telling them that consuming sugar is acceptable in a certain form.
All-in-all, there is a clash of culinary titans, with health enthusiasts caught in the crossfire. But fret not, in the following sugar-laden saga, we'll uncover the sweet deceptions and the bitter truth of refined danger versus raw benefits.


The Refined Danger

The gleaming white crystals dazzling like diamonds are dessert’s darlings and a staple of sweet tooths across the world. They effortlessly seduce you with their saccharine charm, however, behind this tasty facade lies a dark secret.


The nomenclature


Before we talk about ‘why refined sugar is dangerous,’ let’s know how did the ‘refined sugar’ got its name.


The refined sugar has got its name from the way it is made. The name comes from the refining process because refined sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets which go through several processes including extraction, purification, crystallization, drying and refining.


When a natural product goes to such a level of the refining process, it certainly gives you crystallised white sugar but at the same time, it removes the natural molasses and minerals to an extent that what you get is similar to artificial sweetener. This harsh refining process doesn’t leave even traces of the natural texture and flavour of sugar.

You must have heard from health experts that ‘eating a fruit is better than drinking it.’
Have you ever thought why?
For the same reason as above.
As soon as the fruit goes into the machine, it gives you a liquid portion leaving behind much-needed fiber, beneficial nutrients and compounds stored in the fruit's skin and pulp.


Why is it dangerous for health?


The way refined sugar is produced, it gives you nothing but empty calories. The sugar crystals are deprived of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Consumption of the same in either direct or indirect manner leads to an imbalance in nutrient intake and potentially contributes to malnutrition, deficiencies, blood sugar spikes, dental cavities and gum disease, weight gain, and obesity further making room for heart diseases, increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver.


Not just lack of nutrients but also how refined sugar functions make it bad for consumption. It breaks down immediately, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to rise immediately. Moreover, due to quick digestion, it doesn’t make you feel full after you eat it regardless of how many calories you consume. And all this energy if not burnt gets stored as fat leading to obesity.
Therefore, if unavoidable, consumption of white sugar is acceptable as long as it is enjoyed in small quantities as a part of a balanced diet.


The Raw Benefits


Raw sugar is the minimally processed sugar due to which it retains more of the natural molasses and nutrients found in sugar cane juice compared to refined white sugar. The presence of molasses gives it a light brown colour, a slightly coarser texture, a more robust flavour and a subtle hint of sweetness.


How is raw sugar produced?


You must have got a hint from the above definition of raw sugar that it is also processed, but not to the extent of refined sugar. Voila! You are right!


The raw sugar goes through all the steps as refined sugar except the process of refining where harmful chemicals are used to produce the shining impeccable crystals.


Raw>Refined: Why?


Due to being less processed and more wholesome, raw sugar has a lower glycemic index causing a slower and steadier increase in blood sugar levels. This is an excellent option for those looking to curb their cravings without sacrificing sweetness.
The molasses and nutrients found in raw sugar have minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron, as well as small amounts of antioxidants. The quantity of minerals and antioxidants might be relatively smaller yet choosing raw sugar can provide more nutritious.
On one hand, original sugar cane has around 12% sugar concentration and the rest is water, fibre, enzyme, vitamins, and minerals, on the other hand, refined sugar has 99% sucrose and 1% water. The sucrose in raw sugar is only slightly lesser than what’s there in refined sugar, however, the presence of minerals in raw sugar makes it safer for consumption.


How Our Sweet Tooth Harms Planet?


Refined sugar is harmful not just to the human body but the Mother Earth as well.
Let’s begin with the sugarcane, the roots of sugar production. Sugar cane cultivation calls for a substantial amount of water for irrigation, leading to the depletion of freshwater resources. Additionally, excessive use of water and use of pesticides contributes to soil degradation, erosion, and salinization, further exacerbating environmental problems.
Next comes the production of refined sugar which has significant environmental impacts, including deforestation, habitat destruction, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. When sugar cane is cultivated at a large scale, it not only leads to deforestation but also involves draining wetlands to make way for monoculture plantations, leading to loss of biodiversity and disrupted ecosystems.


The process of refining sugar cane into refined sugar requires significant amounts of energy, primarily from non-renewable sources contributing to air pollution. Moreover, the sugar refining process generates large quantities of waste products and improper disposal of the same leads to soil and water contamination, as well as emissions of greenhouse gases.


Just like our health, both types of sugar have an impact on the environment and refined sugar is a few steps ahead here as well.


The Bitter-sweet Verdict


Refined sugar is a big no-no but that doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to the quantity of raw sugar consumption. Raw is unrefined but still, it is processed which has ripped off the fruit of its fibre. While raw sugar may offer some advantages, it still contributes to overall sugar intake and should be consumed sparingly.


Unfortunately, sweeteners are not found in the whole form, therefore, unrefined or raw sugar is the next best option.