Recently lots of products with health food ambitions are listing evaporated cane juice in their litany of ingredients. Is it better than white refined sugar and perhaps even a guilt-free indulgence? Sorry, but not really.
Evaporated cane juice is also known as dried cane syrup. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration in 2009 issued guidelines objecting to the term evaporated cane juice because it "falsely suggests the sweeteners are juice." The proper name, says the government, is dried cane syrup.
However, the FDA seems to be missing the point. The average, and even above average, consumer still doesn't have a clue what dried cane syrup is, and might now be misled into thinking that dried cane syrup is a syrup and not just sugar.
Whatever you call it, evaporated cane juice is basically sugar. And it goes by many other names, including "dried cane juice," "crystallized cane juice," "milled cane sugar," and "unrefined sugar." Granted it is not-so-white, a-little-less-refined, way-more-expensive sugar, but sugar none the less.
Evaporated cane juice is made from sugar cane but undergoes slightly less processing than white refined sugar. The result is a product that is not completely devoid of vitamins and minerals but still has some small amount of B vitamins (niacin and riboflavin) as well as some calcium.
Some have concluded that this makes evaporated cane juice a healthier alternative to sugar. Here is their reasoning. Sugar, as a carbohydrate, requires B vitamins to be processed by the body. When vitamins are completely stripped from sugar, the body needs to find other sources of B vitamins to do the job. This is why it has been said that not only is white refined sugar a non-nutrient but it is a negative nutrient because it actually drains vitamins from the body.
Others say nice try but really the difference in vitamin and mineral content is negligible.
The bottom line is that evaporated cane juice is sugar and for most purposes has no real benefit and needs to be limited in the diet to the same extent as refined white sugar.
If one were skeptical of the good intentions of food manufacturers, one might say that not only is the use of evaporated cane juice a marketing ploy to appear more upscale and healthful, but that it is also a tactic to remove the unpopular term "sugar" from the ingredient list while still keeping the addictive substance in the product. If one were skeptical.
And evaporated cane juice may be on the way out. It has been targeted by the same law firms that took down the tobacco companies. Recently, Greek yogurt maker Chobani was sued for making false and misleading claims about its pomegranate-flavored yogurt because it lists "evaporated cane juice" as an ingredient.
Always check the nutrition facts panel for the number of grams of sugar in any packaged product. This will include white refined sugar, evaporated cane juice, dried cane syrup or any other of its pseudonyms.