White cane sugar is a refined product that is frequently used in cooking to add a sweet taste to food or drinks. Manufacturers often use white cane sugar not only to increase sweetness, but also to add texture, color and bulk to prepared foods. Sugar can also add preservative properties to jams and jellies and serves as a fermenting agent in alcoholic beverages and yeast breads.
White cane sugar comes from the sugar cane plant. Sugar cane is a tropical and subtropical crop that grows as large stalks above ground. Sugar cane is milled and refined to produce cane sugar, which consists mainly of sucrose. White cane sugar can be dried and sold granulated, the form typically used as table sugar, or crushed into powdered sugar.
One tsp. of white cane sugar contains 15 calories and 4 g carbohydrates. Generally considered low in nutritional value, white cane sugar does not contain significant levels of vitamins or minerals. It does have trace amounts of riboflavin, calcium, iron and potassium.
Associated Health Issues
White cane sugar, like all sugars, can cause a rise in blood glucose levels, which may provide a temporary energy surge and pleasant mood. However, because the body responds to a rapid blood glucose rise by releasing insulin, a sugar high is frequently followed by an episode of sleepiness and negative mood. This rapid fluctuation in blood glucose and the calories in sugar can also contribute to weight gain. People who frequently eat white cane sugar and products made using it are also at higher risk for developing diabetes and tooth decay.
While white cane sugar is the most common sugar produced worldwide, more sugar in the U.S. is produced from sugar beets, a crop which grows underground in temperate climates. Brown sugar, which is simply white sugar with molasses left in during the refining process, can be produced from sugar cane or beets. Another alternative sweetener honey, which is produced by bees and often contains different flavors depending on the flowers the bees used to produce it. The sugar in fruits is called fructose and it can also be extracted to form a sweetener for use in processed foods.
The American Heart Association, or AHA, recommends that no more than half of your discretionary calories, those above and beyond what you consume in the form of healthy foods, come from sugars such as white cane sugar. While the exact amount of total calories and discretionary calories you can consume each day is dependent on your age and activity level, the AHA suggests keeping sugar intake below 100 calories each day for women and below 150 calories a day for men. This includes the sugars found in processed foods and beverages as well as table sugar made from sugar cane.