Is the Sugar You Eat Vegetarian?
There is a very clear definition in the Vedas of the difference between a soul (living being) and the Super Soul (God Head). The God Head is able to create things that can reproduce themselves, whereas living entities engineer things that are unable to propagate. We have never seen two chairs giving birth to a new little one, while in nature everything from animals to gemstones is capable of it.
Humans can study and learn the laws of the God’s creation, but even knowing all the ingredients of a seed, there is no way scientists will construct it on their own.
In spite of this, we believe that we can improve some of nature’s creations. Unfortunately, we do not see the whole picture and a quick gain often results in serious consequences.
Some examples of such “improvements” are:
- Homogenized milk. The process of homogenizing changes the molecular structure of milk, so that our body does not recognize it as food anymore. That is why the rate of lactose intolerance has risen dramatically since this convenient innovation came into force. (See Dairy Products and Ayurveda).
- Enriched milk. The source of the vitamin D added to milk is either fish oil or lanolin obtained from sheep’s wool. Milk does not combine with any animal products according to Ayurveda. This creates an additional source of disorders.
- Enriched grains. The process of “enriching” with vitamins or fiber does not make flour or other foods whole. It simply is not possible to acquire the full nutritional benefits of any substance once it has been removed from its natural context and turned into a supplement.
- Processed table salt turns into an aggressive substance, which damages the body. (See Ayurveda on Salt.)
- Refined flour. The nutritious portions of flour are removed during the refining process. White flour is dead from these procedures, but is very profitable for large food companies because it lasts a very long time on the supermarket shelves. Animal proteins and refined grains are a poor combination and eating them together causes many diseases; the refined grains coat the intestinal walls with glue-like substance that prevents correct absorption. When meat or another high fat animal product is ingested, it creates a perfect environment for the breeding of disease.
Refined sugar is made from raw sugar that has undergone a process to remove the molasses. Hundreds of years ago, sugar refiners discovered that the carbonized bones of cattle worked well as a whitening agent, and this practice is now the industry standard.
Sugar cane has held approximately a 50% market share of sugar in recent history, with sugar from sugar beets taking the rest. Beet sugar is not refined in the same way as cane sugar. Bone char filtering is never used in beet sugar processing.
How much bone char is used? Sugar companies purchase huge quantities of bone char. Large commercial filter columns often measure from 10×5 feet to 40×20 feet. Each column, which can filter 30 gallons of sugar per minute for 120 hours at a time, may hold 70,000 pounds of char. If nine pounds of char is produced by one cow and 70,000 pounds are needed to fill a column, a simple math calculation reveals that the bones of almost 7,800 cattle are needed to produce the bone char for one commercial sugar filter. Each refining plant may have several of these large filter columns.
Other types of sugar:
Brown sugar is created by adding molasses to refined sugar, so companies that use bone char in the production of their regular sugar also use it in the production of their brown sugar.
Confectioner’s sugar—refined sugar mixed with cornstarch—made by these companies also involves the use of bone char.
Fructose may, but does not typically, involve a bone-char filter. Supermarket brands of sugar (e.g., Giant, Townhouse, etc.) obtain their sugar from several different refineries, making it impossible to know whether it has been filtered with bone char.
Organic Sugar. Organic sugar is only minimally processed or not refined at all. Since bone char is not on the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char. This product is only milled; it never goes to the refinery where the bone char filters are located.
Molasses, turbinado, demerara, and muscovado sugars are never filtered through bone char.
Evaporated cane juice is also bone-char free.
100% Pure Beet Sugar was never passed through a bone char filter.
If in doubt about any product, concerned consumers should direct inquiries to the manufacturer.
TODAY’S TIP: If you want to avoid all refined sugars, use alternatives such as Sucanat and Turbinado sugar, which are not filtered with bone char. Additionally, beet sugar—though normally refined—never uses bone-char. Eating prepackaged foods and/or restaurant foods that contain refined white sugar will always be questionable.
The table below lists the brands of organic sweeteners that The Vegetarian Resource Group determined to be bone char-free, based on correspondence with the manufacturers.
When discussing ingredients, information changes and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you.
Bone Char-Free Sugars Produced By U.S. Companies
Company Brand Name
C&H Sugar C&H Pure Cane Washed Raw Sugar
C&H Pure Cane Certified Organic Sugar
Cumberland Packing Company Sugar in the Raw
Domino Sugar Domino Demerara Washed Raw Cane Sugar
Domino Pure Cane Certified Organic Sugar
Florida Crystals Florida Crystals Demerara Natural Sugar
Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (granulated and powdered)
Golden Granulated Evaporated Cane Juice
Florida Crystals Milled Cane Natural Sugar
Florida Crystals Certified Organic Natural Sugar
Great Eastern Sun Sweet Cloud Organic Raw Cane Sugar
Hain Celestial Group Hain Organic Brown Sugar
Hain Organic Powdered Sugar
Shady Maple Farms Shady Maple Farms Granulated Maple Sugar
Tropical Traditions Rapadura Whole Organic Sugar
Wholesome Sweeteners Light Muscovado Sugar
Dark Muscovado Sugar
Sucanat (granulated and powdered)
Organic Sucanat (granulated and powdered)