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Are There Health Benefits to Using Sucanat?

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on November 10, 2022

Sucanat is a trademark name derived from "sugar cane natural." It's a less processed form of sugar with a brownish hue and a hint of molasses in its taste.

To make Sucanat, sugar cane juice is pressed, strained, and boiled. It is then paddled to cool and dry it. Sucanat has a coarser texture than regular sugar. Sucanat contains 88% sucrose (natural sugar) while table sugar contains 99%. Cooks may get inconsistent results when they substitute it for granulated sugar, especially in baked goods.

Sucanat is natural, organic, vegan, and non-GMO. The shortened processing time means that Sucanat contains small amounts of some nutrients that refined white sugar lacks. 

Nutrition Information

Sucanat has the same nutritional profile as sugar. One teaspoon contains:

  • Calories: 16
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams

Sucanat contains trace amounts of some vitamins and minerals, including:

Potential Health Benefits of Sucanat

Sucrose, glucose, and fructose are all natural sugars, but they don't act identically in the body. The body's first choice for fuel is glucose, which can be used by almost every cell in the human body.  Digesting fructose is a more complicated process that takes place in the liver and produces triglycerides as an end product. 

Sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. Sucanat, like other cane sugars, is almost all sucrose, so it is also half-and-half glucose and fructose. This formula is almost identical to that of high-fructose corn syrup, which is either 42% or 55% fructose and the rest glucose. 

In short, granulated sugar, Sucanat, and high-fructose corn syrup are chemically very similar. None are inherently bad. All can cause problems when over-consumed. 

The possible health benefits of Sucanat include:

Brain Function

The human body requires glucose to function. The brain uses up about half of the body's requirement of glucose to feed its many cells.

In studies done with children, a rich supply of glucose to the brain improved mental performance, especially on long, difficult tasks. Since Sucanat is half glucose, it readily supplies nutrition to the brain. 

Diabetes Control

Sucanat could be beneficial to people with diabetes who are not dependent upon insulin. One small study showed that those receiving Sucanat instead of regular sucrose had slightly lower blood sugar readings. The less-refined nature of the Sucanat could have caused it to digest more slowly, lessening the impact on blood sugar.

Balanced Diet

Sucanat and other sugars can be valuable parts of a balanced diet. There is no evidence that humans need to stop consuming sugar altogether.

Instead, the American Heart Association recommends limits on added sugar. Women should consume no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons. Men can consume up to 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. 

Potential Risks of Sucanat

Researchers have tied increased intake of sugar to many health risks, including serious risks like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, a 13-year study failed to prove the connection. It found no link between consumption of added sugars and all-cause mortality. More research is needed.

Sucanat or other forms of added sugars could present the following health risks:

Cardiovascular Disease

A high intake of sucrose may be tied to cardiovascular disease. Signs of this connection appeared in the 1950s. The Sugar Research Foundation exerted its influence to place the blame for heart disease almost entirely on fats in the diet.

Today, researchers suggest that scientists should take another look at the relationship between sucrose and cardiovascular disease. They also suggest that studies funded by the food industry should be viewed more critically.  

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers believe that there could be a cause-effect relationship between added sugars, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The consumption of fructose could play a role, as it does not stimulate the release of leptin.

Leptin is a hormone that promotes feelings of satisfaction. Without it, subjects may continue eating. Researchers say that they need more carefully controlled human studies to understand these relationships.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Added Sugar."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Sugars and risk of mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study."

British Journal of Nutrition: "Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children."

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Functionality of Sugars in Foods and Health."

Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences: "Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy."

Economic Sciences: “ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS VERSUS NATURAL SWEETENERS.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: "Sweetener, Sucanat, granulated cane juice, Wholesome Sweeteners."

Fairly Traded Organics: "Differences Between Organic Sugar and White Sugar."

Harvard Medical School: "Sugar and the Brain."

Harvard University: "Natural and Added Sugars: Two Sides of the Same Coin."

JAMA Internal Medicine: "Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents."

Journal of the American Dietetic Association: “Serum glucose and insulin responses to sucanat™ and sucrose in non-insulin dependent diabetes and normal controls.”

Vegetarian Journal: “Is Your Sugar Vegan?”

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