Vegetarians and Sugar

Some vegetarians will not eat sugar and not just because it’s a highly refined substance that contributes no nutritional value. But because sugar is often whitened with bone char from cattle. If you’re a vegetarian and you want to continue eating products that contain sugar, but do not want to consume this small bit of animal product in the process, you have a number of options.

There are two major sources of sugar in the United States: beet sugar and cane sugar. Cane sugar is often whitened with bone char from cattle. Beet sugar is never whitened with bone char.

So, if you want to completely avoid the bone char, you can do so by eating only beet sugar. Your biggest challenge is going to be finding out which foods contain beet sugar and which foods contain cane sugar.

To make things more complex, you can also consume a number of types of cane sugar without realizing it. You need to figure out the source of the sweetener added to food.

You can do this in a lot of cases by looking at the nutritional panel on food before you buy it. If it says fructose or dextrose, the sugar is from beets or most commonly, corn. If it says sucrose, it could be from a number of sources, which could include bone char-whitened cane sugar.

Now, if you’re cooking with sugar, you can personally verify that is bone-char free by purchasing from the following companies which have publicly-stated that they do not use bone-char: Florida Crystals Refinery, Imperial Sugar Company, Irish Sugar Ltd., Sugar In the Raw (which is also less-refined), and American Crystal Sugar Company.

If you can’t find these brands, but want to avoid consuming bone-char sugar if possible, you can avoid these brands, which have publicly-stated that they do use bone-char: Domino, Savannah Foods, and C&H Sugar Company.

Get into the habit of reading the labels on packaged foods. You’ll soon start to be able to pick out the ones that are vegetarian-friendly. While you’re looking at that label, remember if any type of sugar is listed as the first ingredient, that means there’s lots of sugar in there. Vegetarian or not, keep all sweeteners to a minimum for good health.