While cane sugar is extracted from the stalks of sugarcane plants, that look very similar to bamboo cane, beet sugar is obtained from beets that grow underground and are commonly known as the root crop.
Mature beets contain 17% sugar by weight, whereas a ripened cane has around 15 to 20% sugar.
Did you know that your everyday table sugar is either extracted from cane or beet? But you won’t be able to differentiate the two on mere appearance as they usually appear white in color. They are, however, obtained from different food sources. Also, from a health standpoint, many do not know which one is better. Moreover, even though cane sugar is widely used in cooking, can beet sugar be a better option?
The following Tastessence article sheds some light on these points and elaborates more on the notable differences and similarities between beet and cane sugar.
Beet Sugar vs. Cane Sugar
✦ As the name suggests, cane sugar is obtained from sugarcane, a tropical crop that requires plenty of sun and water. In most countries around the world, sugarcane is prominently used for making sugar.
✦ Beet sugar is made from a variety of beta vulgaris plant, commonly known as beet. Beet sugar accounts for 30% of the total sugar produced worldwide. The sweet taste of both beet and cane sugar has been attributed to their high sugar concentration.
✦ Although both beet and cane sugar are equally sweet, a select few are only able to detect the slight difference in their taste. This subtlety in taste can especially be detected by professionals.
✦ When it comes to cooking, especially baking, cane sugar is the preferred choice. Cane sugar tends to impart a better flavor when added to a particular dish. For caramelization, cane sugar is the first choice. This is because cane sugar caramelizes differently, which is found to be superior to beet sugar.
✦ Many consider beet sugar to be an inferior flavor enhancer, although there is no evidence to support this claim. As far as texture is concerned, beet sugar appears to clump up. Also, beet sugar does not caramelize as readily, and when added in baked goods, the resultant texture and flavor is not as good as cane sugar.
✦ Cane sugar is essentially extracted from the pure juice of ripened sugarcane. During the ripening phase, sugar gets accumulated in the stalks. In order to remove this sugar that is stored as sweet juice in the stalk, the cane is passed through crushing equipment. The cane juice extracted is then purified and evaporated to remove the water content and promote crystallization. Raw sugar is produced after the process of crystallization, which also contains molasses, a sticky brown thick substance. In the refining process, the molasses is filtered from raw sugar, to yield the final product, referred to as white sugar.
✦ For extracting beet sugar, first the beets are cleaned thoroughly to remove all the dirt. This is then followed by making thin slices of beets. This process of slicing the beets increases their surface, which facilitates extraction of sugar. The slices are then placed in a diffuser, wherein hot water combines with the thin slices of beet. This hot water ‘washing’ helps in removing sugar from the beets. However, the sugar solution formed contains impurities such as flesh of beet. The solution is then filtered, followed by evaporation which produces a thick sugar syrup. Finally, the syrup is boiled, which removes excess water, leaving beet crystals behind.
✦ Irrespective of what you buy―beet or cane sugar―it is refined white sugar (sucrose). It is a known fact that white sugar is not that nutritious. So, though sugar cane and sugar beet are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, their extracted product (sugar) has 4.2 g of carbs that’s just 1% in a teaspoon of sugar with whopping 16 calories, thanks to the refining process. The refined sugar is a simple carbohydrate that rapidly turns into glucose to cause insulin spikes. No wonder, excess of sugar intake has been linked to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
On the whole, both beet sugar and cane sugar are nutritional failures due to the refining process, and as such, there is nothing healthy about this calorie-laden food. So eating sugar in moderation should be your top priority and is also the key to healthy eating.