White sugar vs raw sugar
What’s the difference between white and raw sugar in terms of environmental impact? What about raw and brown sugar – are these the same product?
Let’s take a brief look at how each of these cane sugar variations are created.How raw sugar is made
Sugar cane is initially pressed and the juice is then mixed with lime to achieve the desired ph balance and to help settle out impurities. The resulting liquid is reduced through evaporation, then a centrifuge used to separate sugar crystals. It is then dried further to produce granules. The brown color of raw sugar is due to presence of molasses.
How white sugar is made
“White” sugar is created in a couple of ways.
Mill white sugar is the result of sulphur dioxide being introduced to the cane juice before evaporation. It effectively bleaches the mixture.
In the production of refined white sugar, which is the most common product in the Western world, the raw sugar syrup is mixed with a heavy syrup and run through a centrifuge again to take away the outer coating of the raw sugar crystals.
Phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide are then added to the juice which then combine and absorb or trap impurities. Alternatively, carbon dioxide is used to achieve the same effect.
The resulting syrup is then filtered through a bed of activated carbon to remove molasses and then crystallized a number of times under vacuum. It is then further dried to produce white refined sugar like we buy in the store.
Brown sugar is refined white sugar with a molasses syrup mixed in, then dried again.
Sugar use in other countries
While the sugar cane plant is a somewhat thirsty plant, it’s one of nature’s best photosynthesizers. In many countries, simple crushed sugar cane is the way you get your sugar fix, or other treats that require little further processing of the sugar cane.
Sugar cane and the environment
Environmentally speaking, the less processing required means the less energy used, less waste products and fewer chemicals.
While whole or crushed sugar cane can be difficult to source in the city, out of the options remaining, raw sugar is the more earth friendly option and brown sugar oddly enough is the worst choice.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of food processing sequences that take something out of a food, only to add it back in later on, such is the case with brown sugar. Another example of this is breadmaking flour that has most of vitamins destroyed in the milling/bleaching process only to have vitamins needed to be added back in.
The bad news about sugar and the environment doesn’t end with how the syrup is processed into a final product.
Effluent and waste from sugar mills creates major problems for local environments. Pesticides and herbicides applied during cultivation contaminate the ground and water supplies. Added to these problems is the firing of sugar cane prior to harvesting which pumps millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the atmosphere each year. Natural habitats in sensitive areas are often cleared in order to grow sugar cane to meet increasing demand.
Do we need added sugar?
Our collective sweet tooth causes far more damage than just cavities. Our sugar choices should go beyond the type of sugar we buy or the type that’s present in products we purchase; it’s also a question of consumption levels. The simple fact of the matter is that most of us have no need for the amount of added sugar we consume. Sugars can be made by our own bodies through the conversion of carbohydrates present in many foods, or through various forms of sugar other than glucose present in fruit and vegetables.
White bread vs brown bread
I’ll admit it, I was a white bread freak, it took many years for me to switch from white to brown/wholemeal; even though I knew that the latter was better for me and the production of brown bread was more earth-friendly.
The difference in taste between white and brown bread is significant, as is the texture and obviously the way it looks. When you are brought up on white bread, it can be really difficult to make the change. The way it was successfully introduced to me recently after many failed attempts was through “quasi” brown breads such as light rye. The taste difference was more subtle, which made for the perfect stepping stone to true wholemeal. These days I actually prefer brown bread to white. Try this strategy on your recalcitrant family member :).
There’s some other things you might like to point out about white vs. brown as sometimes the words “because it’s better for you” just don’t cut it with a white bread addict:
White bread is made is from wheat flour from which the bran and germ have been removed. This is where much of the nutritional bread value is. White bread is lower in zinc, fiber, thiamin, niacin, trace elements and “good” fats and oils. White bread in many countries has to be fortified with vitamins and minerals *by law* during the bread making process. These are usually sprayed into the mix. It’s somewhat ironic that the nutrients that are removed from wheat are re-added by this means. Nature provides, we destroy, then add it back in via a man made form.
Once the bran and germ is removed, the flour is bleached using potassium bromate, benzoyl peroxide or chlorine dioxide gas. Potassium bromate is also known as Bromic Acid or Potassium Salt. It’s an oxidizing agent, can be fatal if swallowed, is harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin and may also cause kidney damage. Benzoyl peroxide is another irritant that can kill animals, birds, or fish, and cause death or low growth rate in plants. Chlorine Dioxide is also a pesticide and even though it breaks down very quickly, it is ranked in the USA as one of the compounds most hazardous to the environment.
So even before the baker adds his chemical magic, there’s some pretty solid cons relating to white bread. Another point to note is that anything that needs “refining” requires more energy resources to do so.
By the way, just because bread is brown in color doesn’t necessarily mean it’s brown bread in the traditional sense of the term, i.e. meaning whole wheat or wholemeal. Check out the ingredients on the bread that you buy and ensure that the first ingredient is whole wheat or wholemeal flour rather than enriched wheat flour or just wheat flour. Enriched/wheat flour is the same type of flour used in white bread. The presence of caramel also is an indicator that it’s not true brown/wholemeal bread as caramel is used as a coloring agent. A couple of other ingredients to avoid if possible are fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil/fats; aka trans fats.
The general rule of thumb is the less ingredients in the bread and the presence of wholemeal flour as the major ingredient, the better it is for you – and the planet.
Have some more info to share about the nutritional or environmental pluses of brown bread? Please add them below.
Brown rice vs white rice
Brown rice – an environmentally friendlier choice
Brown rice is not only better for you, but it’s better for the environment than white rice too.
So what’s the difference?
Rice goes through a variety of processes before it’s ready for cooking. After harvesting, the seeds are run through a rice huller/husker for milling to remove the outer grain husks. After this process, you’re left with brown rice. Nice and simple.
To create white rice, there’s added steps. The germ and the inner husk (bran) is removed, the grain is then polished, usually using glucose or talc.
The crazy thing is that these added steps to turn brown rice to white remove nutrients that are sometimes then introduced back in via synthetic sources – this is called fortified white rice. The same type of thing happens in brown bread vs. white bread scenario.
The loss of nutrients is broad and substantial. Plain white rice has far less Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron and over dozen other nutrients. Added to that, the dietary fiber contained in white rice is around a quarter of brown rice.
So, brown rice certainly appears to be more healthy, but where does the environmental benefit come from? It’s basically down to processing – the less processing of a food, the less energy required. There’s also the issue of the synthetic vitamins added back in – produced in laboratories and factories from a variety of chemicals; and these sorts of processes are well known for their negative impact on the environment.
If you’re accustomed to white rice, making the switch to brown suddenly can cause a taste bud rebellion – it certainly did for me. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste for many people. I suggest adding extra sauces to mask the “wilder” taste of brown rice for a while to allow your tastes to adjust. Once you’ve acquired a taste for brown rice, it’s likely you’ll never go back to white.
When you buy rice, because it keeps so well, try and buy in quantity to save on packaging. The rice we buy comes in cloth bags which we’ve put to very good use after finishing the contents.
Added notes: A couple of readers have pointed out (thanks by the way!) that uncooked brown rice doesn’t keep for as long as white rice. Stored in an airtight container, I’m told brown rice will keep fresh for about six months.
Brown rice does take a little longer to cook than white rice, but the time isn’t much longer if you pre-soak the rice for a while and cook using the absorption method. This is where you use less water and cover the pot, leaving very little excess water left by the time the rice has cooked – the steam generated using this method also helps speed up the cooking process.
◘ Source: http://www.greenlivingtips.com