EVAPORATED CANE JUICE (Aka cane syrup, raw cane crystals or dehydrated cane juice)
The ingredients lists on sports foods these days make for increasingly complicated reading. That’s why we thought it would be useful to explore these ingredients to see whether these technically termed products are performance science in action, or a case of food companies using cheaper, more convenient sugar substitutes.
This time we’re turning our attention to evaporated cane juice. Should we be as wary of this as we are of its cousin, white sugar?
Often found in:
Evaporated cane juice is processed from sugar cane, in a similar fashion to white sugar. The juice is extracted from raw sugar cane and then heated at high temperatures until the juice evaporates, resulting in sugar crystals.
Advocates of evaporated cane juice claim that it is a ‘healthier’ alternative to sugar. They say it’s less processed than white sugar and therefore can retain some of the vitamins and minerals naturally found in sugar cane, such as vitamins A, B, C and calcium. However, studies have shown that these retained levels are negligible.High GI, hello rollercoaster!
Evaporated cane juice almost entirely consists of the fastest releasing sugar molecule, sucrose. High levels of sucrose will have a high glycemic index (GI). And the higher the GI means the quicker the sugar will flood into your bloodstream, leading to those energy-sapping blood sugar roller coasters.
With a GI of 55, evaporated cane juice is not as high as the sugar alternatives maltodextrin (106-136) or brown rice syrup (98) (both of which have been discussed in this series). But it is still significantly higher than dates (42) or honey (35-48).
Refined sugar also depletes our nutrient supply
For carbohydrates to be broken down and assimilated by the digestive system the body needs B-vitamins. Natural sugars such as raw sugar cane or honey contain the necessary levels of B-vitamins to enable this. Refined sugars, including evaporated cane juice, don’t! This means that the body has to find B-vitamins from other sources to digest the sugar which can lead to a depletion of our natural vitamin reserves.
This affects endurance performance
For the endurance athlete, this is particularly concerning as B-vitamins are vital for producing energy. Without B-vitamins, the mitochondria in our muscles can’t generate the energy we need for endurance performance.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) steps in to clarify
Recent FDA guidance to the food industry states that sweeteners derived from sugar cane shouldn’t be declared on food labels as ‘evaporated cane juice’ as it misleads the consumer. The name evaporated cane juice suggests that it is a natural, healthy sweetener and doesn’t clearly explain that there is very little difference between evaporated cane juice and white sugar.
We use dates and honey in our endurance fuels. These natural sweeteners are far healthier than evaporated cane juice. And they provide a slow and steady, nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates to help you perform at your best.
The question is: do your sports nutrition products contain evaporated cane juice? Ours don’t!