Friday, July 31, 2009

Rapadura? Panela? Sucanat? Muscavado? Turbinado? Organic Raw Sugar?

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Rapadura? Panela? Sucanat? Muscavado? Turbinado? Organic Raw Sugar? Are these sugars the same? If not, which ones are the least refined? Which have the most vitamins and minerals? Are you confused?

A lot of people ask me, "What is Rapadura? Is it the same as Organic Raw Sugar? Why is it okay to eat Rapadura, but not okay to eat regular cane sugar, if they're both made from sugar cane?" So here's an overview of these different sugars...

Rapadura is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane (using a press), which is then evaporated over low heats, whilst being stirred with paddles, then seive ground to produce a grainy sugar. It has not been cooked at high heats, and spun to change it into crystals, and the molasses has not been separated from the sugar.  It is produced organically, and does not contain chemicals or anti-caking agents.

In Brazil, where it is produced, 'Rapadura' is the traditional name for this kind of sugar - it is also known as Panela, Raspadura, Chancaca, Piloncillo... depending on where it's made.  There may be some small differences in the process used to make these, but generally it is as outlined hereDaabon, who import this sugar from Columbia to Australia and the United States, state that Panela and Rapadura are two names for the same product, Panela being the Colombian name.

The German company Rapunzel registered the name 'Rapadura' for the organic sugar they sold, but because of the diplomatic problems it caused, the labelling was recently changed to 'Organic Whole Cane Sugar.' 

There are similar products to Rapadura, such as Sucanat (USA - a trade name), and Jaggery (India). Sucanat is different to Rapadura in that the sugar stream and the molasses stream are separated from each other during processing, then reblended to create a consistent product, whereas Rapadura is a wholefood product which can vary according to sugar cane variety, soil type and weather. This is why one batch of Rapadura may be lighter or darker than the last batch. (See this diagram)  Because Rapadura is not separated from the molasses, it has more nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  Jaggery can refer to either whole cane sugar or palm sugar.  From what I can understand, it is also heated to higher temperatures, as much as 200 degrees C, which Rapadura is not.  Like many of these similar sugars, Jaggery is solidified and formed into cakes, which can then be grated for use.

Because Rapadura is dehydrated at a low heat, the vitamins and minerals have been retained. (See this specs sheet for details of what Rapadura has in it, compared to other sugars!) It still has the natural balance of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, and contains components essential for its' digestion. It is metabolized more slowly than white sugar, and therefore will not affect your blood sugar levels as much as refined sugars. The more refined the sugar, the more it raises your blood sugar.

Muscavado, Turbinado, Demarara and 'Organic Raw Sugar' are all refined, though not as much as white sugar. They are the product of heating, clarifying, then dehydrating the cane juice until crystals form, then spinning it in a centrifuge so the crystals are separated from the syrupy juice (producing molasses). The clarifying process is usually done with chemicals, although sometimes through pressure filtration.  The crystals are then reunited with some of the molasses in artificial proportions. The molasses contains vitamins and minerals, and is recommended for a healthy diet, but the crystals themselves are pretty much 'empty carbs.'

'Raw' sugar is not really raw - it has been cooked, and a lot of the minerals and vitamins are gone. Still, it's better than refined sugar because it has a little of the molasses still clinging to it. Some sugar is sold as 'organic' raw sugar, and people think this means it's unrefined - all it really means is that it's grown with organic agricultural methods, then refined as usual... the juice (molasses) has been mostly removed, and there's not really much goodness in it.

White sugar is refined much further... see this flow chart for details.  The raw sugar is washed with a syrup solution, then with hot water, clarified (usually chemically) to remove impurities, decolourized (in some countries they use bone char made from cattle bones), concentrated, evaporated, reboiled until crystals form, centrifuged again to separate, then dried, and by then any lingering goodness has completely dissapeared! All other sugars are refined sugars of different sizes, and various stages of processing. Crystallised refined sugars are pure sucrose and contain no nutrients beyond calories. They are a "pure" industrial product, and can hardly be considered a food. Some would say they are closer to a drug, which affects our bodies adversely and is very addictive. Not only do they not give anything beneficial to our bodies, they actually take away from the vitamins and minerals in what we are eating. People who get headaches from eating refined sugars usually find they have no problem with Rapadura.

Brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses.

If you are unused to the grainy texture of Rapadura, it can be ground in the Thermomix (or a powerful blender) to a fine powder to help it dissolve better. Rapadura can be used cup for cup as an alternative to sugar in all your baking and cooking. I buy my Rapadura bulk from Demeter Farm Mill through a local co-op (12.5kg for about $73). I always cut down on the amount of sugar when converting recipes, just adding some raw honey or some crushed dates, or sometimes a pinch of stevia powder if I think it needs more sweetening. That way it doesn't end up too expensive an option. However, when you're considering the price, remember that Rapadura is grown and produced without chemicals, in third world countries, by people who need our support to continue this traditional method of producing sugar if they are not to be taken over by large, multi-national companies who would discard the old methods for their high-profit, ultra refined methods!

Here are some links to places where you can buy Rapadura - check on bulk prices, get a few friends together and buy a big bag, and you'll save a lot!
Biodistributors (Australia)
Daabon Organic (importing to countries all over the world)
Honest to Goodness (Australia)
Good Food Warehouse (Australia - prices include postage/freight)

70 comments:

Cat J B said...

Thanks for the explanation, I continue on my quest to get hold of some rapadura, thinking on-line will be the best way.

Matilda said...

Thank you for the detailed explanations about the different types of sugar. You mention stevia in your post. What are your thoughts or have you heard much about using stevia as a primary sweetener when cooking or baking? Thank you!

Jo said...

Hi Matilda,
I try not to use too much stevia powder or liquid as they are refined - only now and then. But if you use the whole leaf or dried leaf and brew your own 'stevia tea', you can use that to sweeten things as much as you like, as it's still a whole food. To read more about the pros and cons of stevia, read this: http://www.sweetsavvy.com/sweeteners/summary.php?id=Stevia Leaf

Cathy said...

Hi Jo
I've purchased the Rapadura Sugar, just have to start using it. Does it work in icing? And what about sorbets or Fruity Dream?
Cathy

Jo said...

Hi Cathy,

You can use Rapadura in icing, but it won't be white, it will be a caramel colour. Just grind it really fine first, to icing sugar consistency, and add 1 tsp cornflour to each cup ground Rapadura.

You can use it in sorbets too, just grind it til it's fine first.

k said...

glad i stumbled upon this website...i'm a store clerk at a local health food store in delaware, and i'm currently researching authentic brands of rapadura, ie not the german-owned rapunzel version, but the brazilian sugar cake...we're looking to bring in a more authentic replacement. any thoughts as to where to find such an item? besides flying to brazil, that is...
thank you in advance!

Jo said...

Hi k - All our Rapadura in Australia is from Brazil, but as I buy it from a supplier in Australia (Demeter), I'm not sure how you could get it. I've heard that Sucanat, which you can get in the USA, is the same as Rapadura, but it's from another country (not Brazil) - not sure where. If you'd like to contact my supplier to see if they can give you any info, their email address is: info@demeterfarmmill.com.au. Sorry I couldn't be of more help!

Anonymous said...

I have purchased Sucanat from Country Life Natural Foods, in Pullman, Michigan. They have a website and catalog...check it out!

Jo said...

I've recently discovered that Sucanat is not the same as Rapadura - it is more refined, then has the molasses mixed into it. Rapadura is brought into Australia by Daabon Organics - http://www.daabonorganic.com/au/doa.htm (maybe others too, not sure). They may also import to the USA.

Miranda R Mueller said...

Hi Jo!
Check out my recent blog post. Thanks for all your information on rapadura.
-miranda
http://anaustinhomestead.blogspot.com/2010/02/rapadura-natural-sweetener.html

Bel said...

Thank you Jo for explaining all of this! Well done on the research, and great links. :)

Lisa said...

love your work Jo, I finally get it. Yes I know, I'm slow... Let me know the next demeter order and we will get our act together. loves ya

Crystal said...

try www.azurestandard.com for Rapadura

$55 for 33lbs

Seems like a pretty decent price to me. Hope this helps some of you out there looking for Rapadura. They have many great products at reasonable prices.

Happy hunting!

Jo Whitton said...

Thanks for that info Crystal!!

Tenina said...

Hi Jo, been researching all the sugars...cos I'm making licorice today....this article was most helpful! Good job!

Jo Whitton said...

Thanks Tenina - can't wait to see your licorice recipe!! yum!

Kattie said...

I have a couple of questions...What about evaporated cane sugar? I see it in a lot of foods that I buy from Trader Joes. Also, I saw that Costco has Organic, Unrefined sugar...Would that be as good as rapadura?

Jo said...

Hi Kattie,
Evaporated cane sugar is the same thing as Rapadura, as far as I know. I'm not sure what Organic, Unrefined sugar is - it may be the same sort of thing. You can usually tell by the texture - is it crystallised? If it's not (if it has a grainy texture) it hasn't been heated as high, or spun to crystallize it, and is much less refined. If they have a website on the packet, look it up and see if they describe the process used to make it.
Jo :)

Kattie said...

Thank you!

Garret said...

I love this post about sugar!

I have one real question about sugar and I hope that you can answer.

Do you know how everyone says not to give kids sugar or else they will get hyper? Is this really true? Does sugar really increase kids energy?

I have heard it both ways and was wondering if anyone knew. Thanks!

~Garret
famous restaurant recipes

Jo Whitton said...

Hi Garret,
As far as I know, kids do get hyped up on sugar because it makes your blood sugar shoot up, but then it crashes, causing crankiness and even depression. Rapadura doesn't have that same effect, as it is slower to absorb, so the ups and downs aren't so bad. One thing I really hate about refined sugar is the way it depresses the immune system, making it a lot easier to get sick.

Naomi said...

Hi, I currently use Jaggery (in NZ) as we can't get rapadura at the moment. It is lumpy, which is a bit of a nuisance (have to blend it with water to dissolve fully), but the flavour is wonderful. It is quite moist which can affect sensitive recipes.

I would like to share a great icing recipe I made up, without ANY sugar! (I also use a thermomix, but a blender works well too).

Place a few handfuls of dates (normal cheap pitted variety) in blender/themomix, add a smallish can of pineapple (in juice), let sit for a while. Add a couple of spoonfuls of cream cheese (organic, ideally), and blend to a caramel-coloured creamy consistency. If it still a bit lumpy then just let it sit a few minutes and blend again. I let mine blend for about 5 minutes.

Totally yummy, and very spreadable. Vary the proportions to get it just right. If you want to be dairy free, then use white raw almond butter or cashew butter instead.

Naomi (NZ)

Naomi said...

Kids and sugar, we run a kindergarten (20 kids)and we provide organic, whole-grain lunch every day. Until recently we gave savoury vegetable-based meals Mon-Wed, and a fruit-based sweet meal Thursdays (all wholegrain ingredients). The children were noticeably more hyper on Thursday afternoons, the teachers asked us to skip the sweet meal, and just give savoury meals every day! The only sugar we use is jaggery or rapadura, and the grains are always whole wheat, barley, quinoa, brown rice etc etc. The fruit is fresh and nautral, organic. Obviously there is some truth in it, although the effect is MUCH REDUCED by using natural sugars. Obviously our bodies don't need too much sweet. I tend to think dates are the best sweetening, where possible, reducing sugar intake. Any other anecdotal evidence out there?

Jo Whitton said...

Thanks for your comments and recipe Naomi - that icing sounds delicious! I'm really impressed by your organic, whole-grain meals at a kindy - that's awesome!! That's really interesting about the effects on the kids of the sweet foods vs savoury - I agree, sweet things should be a very small part of our diet. And although rapadura and other natural sweeteners are a great option for those special treats, we still shouldn't eat too much of them! (I love using ground dates too.) I have a lot of naturally sweetened recipes on my blog, mainly because I think that's the kind of cooking people find hardest to convert to healthier alternatives. (But I don't eat them every day!) :)

ThermomixBlogger Helene said...

I'm finally getting around to reading this article and have to stop here, in the middle of reading it to thank you for such a thoroughly researched and accessible explanation of the differences between natural sweeteners (on a global level). You understand this topic so well, and that's one of the reasons you are one of my (and other people's) favorite bloggers. Yay!

Jo Whitton said...

You're so sweet, Helene! no pun intended :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this clear explanation of the differences in the sugars. Rapadura is a new name to me since the fall, now I know why I keep hearing it, is the most healthful. My ? -- are there any storage considerations, for long term. Cool, dry is what we do. Does it require more, so as not to lose it's goodness.Thank you - Nancy

Jo Whitton said...

Hi Nancy, cool and dry storage is the best - if you have a sealed container in a cool pantry it should be fine. When I buy it bulk I store it in the freezer, but it will go hard in there and you have to thaw it out before you can scoop it out of the bag. (I don't have a big pantry, and where we live it's hot and humid, and putting it in the freezer protects it from ants.)

Hope said...

What about organic cane juice crystals?

Hope said...

Another note on the organic cane juice crystals I use---its seems pretty fine in texture, which makes me wonder if it is not the same as rapadura....This is all so confusing! thx 4 your help! =)

Jo Whitton said...

That could be the same thing, Hope - is it actually crystallised, or more granulated? If it's crytallised, it's been heated and centrifuged, so it's more refined. But there are a few different names out there now, like Organic Evaporated Cane Juice/Sugar. Does it say on the packet how it's made?
Jo :)

Hope said...

I think its crystallized but the owner of the health food store gets it in bulk and i just buy some weighed out in a baggy so I haven't seen the actual label. She sells sucranat too but I haven't tried it yet. I look forward to trying to find a source for Rapadura--thx for your help!

Anonymous said...

Does any one know if raw cane juice crystals and evaporated cane juice are the same thing?
Thank you. cathyLou

Jo Whitton said...

Hi CathyLou, see the above comments about organic cane juice crystals - I'm really not sure, as Rapadura is not 'crystals', it's kind of granulated.

Rebekahthermomix said...

Hi Jo, Loving your blogg! I am in Esperance WA and I contacted Demeter some time ago after reading Cyndi's book. I am pretty sure it was them anyway, and they said they don't sell to the general public! :( If you get yours from there I reckon I might give it another shot. I can finally get some rapadura locally and it is nothing like any other sugar. I love the flavour! But it is pretty dear... But thanks again for all the info!

Jo Whitton said...

Thanks Rebekah! :) Yes, I think Demeter only sells wholesale - you need an ABN, which we have for our co-op. Try Biodistributors in Tasmania - you can order online - their prices are good. You can also order Rapadura from Cyndi's website now :) Isn't it delicious?!

Bootcamp said...

Good explanation, because most people don't realize how bad the white sugar is for you. It's completely empty and void of any nutrients. Good post!

DoleValleyGirl said...

Great post!

Lara from Silk Playground said...

Hi Jo, love your blog! I'm trying to avoid fructose (unless it's in fresh fruit), and find it hard to find a sweetener that doesn't contain it. The best I can come up with is rice malt syrup, stevia, xylitol or dextrose/glucose powder. Do you know of any others?

Mark said...

Hi Jo, thank you for your research! Just a few points that may help the discussion.

First, sugarcane is around 15% sucrose & whether it's made into rapadura or raw sugar, all the process does is remove the water (around 70% of the cane), the ash (industry term for insoluble impurities) & turn it into a solid product. The end product is still sucrose, & practically devoid of any other nutrients.

Second, sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it's glucose & fructose joined by a weak chemical bond. Fructose is much sweeter than glucose, but it's also the reducing sugar that's bad for weight gain. Glucose of course is the one that increases blood sugar.

Finally, in your linked diagram of sugar refining it says that decolourisation uses bone char. This actually isn't the case in Australia, bone char was phased out in the '70s. Australia's four sugar refineries use either biochar (from wood), or ion exchange (little plastic beads) to remove colourants.

There's a comment above about the texture of rapadura. It's made by evaporating cane juice over a low heat & the end result is a solid block that looks a bit like crumbly caramel. From there it's usually shaved or crushed before packaging. That's why the texture is different from crystalline sugar.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about cooking with Rapadura. I have just purchased my first 25kg pack of rapadura from Perth and plan to start using it asap. One of the main reasons it has taken my fancy is the health benefits, however if I bake with rapadura, will this "kill" all the lovely vitamins and minerals in the process? Should I just be using Rapadura for raw cooking ie icing, on cereal, sorbets etc rather than in tea/coffee, cakes etc.

Jo Whitton said...

@Lara: I'm not really sure about any other low fructose sweeteners. I like Rapadura because the natural balance of fructose, glucose & sucrose.

@Mark: Thanks for your comments - have you had a look at the chart showing what percentage vitamins & minerals are in rapadura compared to more refined sugar? I still think it's way ahead!

That's right that we don't use bone char in Australia in decolourising our sugar - but a lot of countries do (including the US), and not many people know that.

Re the texture, Rapadura is like Panela in that it's a block (as you say), then it's ground & seived; I guess that's why they call it 'seive ground'.

@Anon: I still bake with Rapadura, as it's better than using white, refined sugar, even if some of the vitamins & minerals are destroyed by heat. That's the same with anything - flour, veges, fruit, etc. But it's still not going to 'leach' vitamins & minerals from your body like refined sugar does, so it's got to be better. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jo, for the info about "rapadura". I've been reading Jordan S' Rubin books (The Maker's diet and The great Physician's R X for Children's Health) and I was wonderin were in Tasmania could I buy rapadura. I'm a new born christian and I'm from Mexico married to an australian. My name is Dennise by the way.

Jo Whitton said...

Hi Dennise! How long have you been in Australia? I haven't heard of that book, sounds interesting. You can buy Rapadura from Biodistributors in Tasmania - they have good prices. The link to their site is at the bottom of my article.
Blessings, Jo x

Pam said...

Try organic cold pressed raw Coconut nectar. It looks like rice syrup also comes in crystals. Nutrients rich, B vitamins, minerals, 17 amino acids and low GL35. I live in NZ and get mine from iHerb.com, excellent company to deal with, freight just $4. Costs nearly half what I have to pay here for same. If you enter OWE535 in the coupon code they even give you $5. off of your first order.
They also have delicious coconut amino acids(use instead of soy) and vinegar, all raw!
I am a new Thermomix consultant in Whangarei and love it.

Anonymous said...

I have never tried rapadura, but will try it next. I just bought a 5 lb bag of sucanat, as well as some other sweeteners (molasses, cane syrup and other healthier ones). I will NOT eat sugar or anything made from sugar beets, or anything that has sugar beet in it, unless it's certified organic. Over 90% of all sugar beets in the "good ole" USA are GMO. This makes it not only an unhealthy but an unnatural substance. Eating it can turn the good gut bacteria into a pesticide factory. :-( How sad, and so many American children are eating this poison daily. God help us!

Jo Whitton said...

Scary hey. There's so much in our food that a lot of people have no idea about!!

Anja said...

Thought you may be interested to know that Panela is being sold in some helath food shops under the brand name "Lotus Organic Foods" and is a product of Italy.

Katrina said...

Finally! I've been looking for a good explanation of all these different terms for a while. I'm in the US and am wondering if the use of these terms is at all regulated since I've had demerara that looked like sucanat AND then another that was more like Rapadura. Trusting the labeling is so confusing!

Jo Whitton said...

Thanks Anja!

Katrina, it is confusing - very! I would have a close look at the sugar and check that it's not crystallised - if it is, it has been exposed to very high heats and the juices have been spun off (with all the goodness), and just a little put back on. (Although brown sugar is hard to tell that it's crystallised...) It may also say on the back of the packet how it was made.

Kurt said...

Even if you have trouble finding Rapadura, you can often find Piloncillo at ethnic food stores, often for much less than you would pay at a natural foods store. For instance, there is a grocery near me that serves my region's large Hispanic population, and one can find Piloncillo sugar in the bulk section.

Anonymous said...

Here is a place you can get smaller bags online - http://www.healthoasis.me/products/Pure-Food-Essentials-%252d-Organic-RAPADURA-300g.html

Love my Rapadura :)

Alicia said...

Just wondering, if I use it for baking, and therefore gets exposed to a high temperature, does it essentially negate all the goodness that was originally in it and therefore not really any better for me than white or raw sugar? Just trying to weigh up the extra cost vs health benefit.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo,
I bought some Panela originally as the shop didn't have Rapadura in stock. Loved it! The next time they only had Rapadura and I bought that. It is horrible and I've barely touched it. Tastes nothing at all like the Panela. Any ideas why this may be? The Panela was much softer, like brown sugar. Feels like such a waste of money. Will have to do some baking to use it up in.
Thanks!

infraxion said...

All these sugars should be the same price as white sugar. It's made from the same raw materials and therefore the cost should be the same.

To buy rapadura for $1 per pound, go to any local store in chinatown. It comes in rectangular 1-lb blocks, and is usually labeled as "BROWN SUGAR IN PIECES". It's the same unrefined sugarcane product, but you pay less because you're not in a health-food store.

Mark said...

@infraxion, that's not quite correct. Rapadura, panela, jaggery etc are made pretty much the same way, by boiling sugar cane and/ or palm tree juice in a shallow pan then letting it cool and solidify in a block or mold. Very much a handmade product, and the quality varies a lot!

Brown sugar comes from a sugar refinery. It is basically the crystal that results after (up to) 7 stages of boilin sugar syrup under vacuum. Best way to think of it is normal sugar with a coating of molasses. Brown sugar is passed through a vibrating screen (sieve) before being packed, and the lumps are what doesn't go through. If they didn't sell them as lumps, the refinery would remelt them (dissolve) and add back into the process.

infraxion said...

@Mark That's true for ordinary powdered brown sugar at grocery stores. But this Chinese stuff is not the same, it's a solid block of unrefined evaporated cane juice. You can tell because the flavor is MUCH stronger and more complex than ordinary brown sugar.

Patti Johnson said...

Wow! Great blog post, Jo! Just discovered our awesome blog! :)

I've read through most of the comments and have a question: Who is Cyndi and what is her website address where she sells the Rapadura?

I'm in the USA and looking for the best place to purchase Rapadura online or locally via an ethnic food store.

If anyone can help me, I'd truly appreciate it!

Thanks & Happy Holidays to all! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi

I'm from Singapore,any ideal I can get rapadura from Singapore?

Huikee

Anonymous said...

Awesome information...thanks so much. I've just bought my thermomix and getting much healthier in my eating and making goodness for my little one's! I've just checked the place where i buy bulk and they have rapadura...the website is 2brothersfoods.com
cheers, Tanya

Anonymous said...

The author makes a distinction between Rapadura and Sucanat that is totally INCORRECT with regard to molasses. Sucanat production does not involve the removal or addition of molasses.

Lisa G said...

With what authority do you say that "anonymous". If you make a statement like that I'd like to hear your sources.

Anonymous said...

hi jo, how do you get the panella to dissolve when cooking. I tried making your chocolate but the panella just went all grainy and stayed on the bottom. Also is there a difference between coconut butter and coconut oil? They didn't sell the butter at my health food store. Thanks,
Christine

Cheryl Horn said...

CJ

Thank you for so much information re the different sugars. Very helpful site.

South Aussie Girl said...

Great post - thanks for your information! I have seen around the place using Coconut Palm Sugar - what are your thoughts on this?
Cheers!

Billy said...

In your article, please change the word "Columbia" to "Colombia" (...who import this sugar from Columbia to Australia...) The quickest way to insult someone is to spell the name of their country incorrectly. Thank you.

Charlotte james said...

Rapadura is the best sugar product, i have purchased and use it.
you can use Sugar processing chemicals for make better Rapadura.

KatieM said...

You can now buy Organic Mountain brand organic Panela at Woolies. It's $3.49 for 500g. Love that the major supermarkets are finally catching on that these foods are becoming mainstream!

Anonymous said...

The B&B where we stayed in Argentina used it a lot. They bought it I think in a sugar form & said it was better than using sugar, but on coming home & checking it out, not much difference. I have the herb growing in the garden but haven't used it yet.

The Bush Gourmand said...

Jo, the daabon link isn't working anymore

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