Do most vegans eat sugar or not? Is this a heated topic amongst vegans, or is it generally accepted to choose whichever you prefer? And, finally, what would you substitute sugar with if you had to... and does it work the same?

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18 Comments

Marvin A. February 18, 2019
On the topic of sugar - do vegans realize that the nutritional yeast that is common in their diet, a by product of the sugar cane industry - in particular the refining process which can use animal by products? And that sugar cane production is very harmful to the environment ??
 
Dana May 25, 2018
I am vegetarian and use a variety of options for sugar depending upon the application. Most often, I tend to use maple syrup, coconut sugar, or fresh dates - all of which I would consider vegan with respect to animals. I’m not a baker and tend to use these only as needed to balance savory dishes. I like honey too, but I know that is typically not considered vegan. I hope this is somewhat helpful!
 
Chris May 24, 2018
I read on another website that vegans don’t use honey because it exploits bees. Are the bees that pollinate my apple trees being exploited? I don’t think so.
 
Chris May 24, 2018
I happened to have a discussion tonight with a vegan friend. He said that while he and his wife tend to use agave, they will eat white sugar. He said that there is vegan sugar, but they only use it for special occasions, because in his words “it’s usually crazy more expensive”. As far as honey, he said they will use it only for it’s health benefits, and will let his children have it for that purpose. He’s been a vegan for around twenty years. He explained that it’s like religion. Some people are so adamant about there beliefs that they become almost militant, which he says ruins the cause. Don’t know if this helps or not, but here it is. They gave me some good recipes though which I hope to cook for my vegan neighbor.
 
lorigoldsby May 24, 2011
Anita--your response is thorough and illuminating without the "preachy" undertone of condescension that often accompanies these type of discussions.

Does anyone remember the scene in "Love Actually" where Hugh Grant's date says she is a "friutatarian"? He says, " So then these carrots..." "yes, murdered."

So enjoy your meals with friends, if they're good friends, they're worth the trouble and if they are good friends, they'll appreciate the effort!
 
Anitalectric May 24, 2011
All vegans are different, as indicated by many of the posts here. Like many vegans, I try to use a wide variety of sweeteners. That is one of the great things that have resulted from being vegan. I now have more variety in my diet than ever before.

I'm sad to hear about so many people who have had vegans in their lives make them feel inferior. For me, it is just the opposite-- about making myself, and other people, feel good. In a way, I sympathize with you. Recently I parted ways with a job, and one of the factors was that I insisted on using real/cane sugar (and flour) in some of my desserts, and the more hardline vegan owner wanted me to use alternative sweetners that taste bad, but have good press.

The sweeteners I keep in my kitchen include evaporated cane juice, which is a fancy name for sugar that is less processed than white sugar (and yeah, white sugar is not vegan--for some vegans it goes beyond the fact that it contains animal products to include reasons that tie into food politics, the environment and health). I also use maple syrup (Grade B is my fave), maple sugar, agave (golden, amber and the latest craze: CLEAR!), coconut sugar (comes in both brown and white!) and panela (Colombian black sugar).

All of those listed above are concentrated sweeteners. Many of my recipes use one of those in conjunction with other ingredients that add more subtle sweetness along with flavor, like bananas, dehydrated apples, coconut meat, pineapple juice, dates and even beans. There are also dry ingredients that add sweetness, like coconut flour, oat flour and lucuma powder.

Some sweeteners that other vegans use that I can not stand are stevia and xylitol. They taste completely sythetic and cloying to me! I am also not a big fan of sucanat. It is kind of funny how political we can get over our choice of sweeteners. I agree that most of what is out there about "good" and "bad" sweetener is the result of good and bad PR. Sugar is sugar, basically, and what I choose is based on what tastes good for my recipe and what makes me feel good (white sugar does not fall into either category).

A similar situation exists for wheat. Some people are allergic, and some other people just think it is "evil." For me, the more variety, the better, and that includes wheat. I made mushroom burgers with whole wheat buns from the local bakery last night. On another night, I might have used spelt buns, or rice flour tortillas. For breakfast I might have pecan-brown-rice bread. Sometimes I crave manna bread, that weird, moist brown loaf that they sell in the freezer section. When I can get it, I love raw, seed-based flatbread that is made in a dehydrator.

It is not about setting rules or limitations for myself, it is about experiencing all the amazing plant-based food that is available.
 
Verdigris November 5, 2010
When ever anyone new is coming to our house as a guest for a meal, I ask about any food preferences or allergies that I need to be aware of in order to provide them with food they can and will eat. And I always ask for clarification on what they mean by "vegetarian" or "vegan" or "kosher" or "diabetic" as I have found that most folks use those labels but have a very specific private meaning that may not resemble what the "accepted" meaning may be.

Now if I am doing an "institutional meal" I will try to use signage to provide an explanation of meal contents.
 
betteirene October 22, 2010
innoabrd, Ouch. That was so rude it was painful.
 
Hilarybee October 21, 2010
I think it is a personal preference that has more to do with one's philosophy on processed foods than meat products. A very strict vegan will abstain from honey because it is an animal product. But I know vegans who will eat honey, but not overly processed sugars. For future reference, agave nectar is marketed as a healthier option, but it is processed from the root of the plant, using the same method used to make high fructose corn syrup. Fructose crystals are made the same way.

I cook for vegans often, and I eat a very meat limited diet myself. I use only natural, raw crystals. I like a brand called Florida Crystals, because they make natural cane sugar in varying sizes. I believe the natural sugar at Trader Joe's is also made by Florida Crystals. I have substituted this kind of sugar in everything I bake for the last two years, and I have noticed no substantial difference. I am cautious to follow the recipe as to the type of sugar (superfine, dark brown, etc),

A great resource is Heidi Swanson's site, http://www.101cookbooks.com/
 
innoabrd October 21, 2010
An acquaintance had a vegan coming for tea and very carefully selected some biscuits (aka cookies) that appeared to contain nothing to offend a vegan. The vegan in question sniffed the biscuits and proclaimed, "I can smell the blood in these biscuits."

The acquaintance was impressed. I thought it was just rude...

 
AmandaE October 21, 2010
My vegan SIL will do the special vegan white sugars in addition to any that are certified kosher but not specifically marked as vegan. To give her credit she's a pretty chill vegan and rarely, if ever, goes all preachy.
She won't do honey so for recipes that call for it I normally use 100% maple syrup. Apparently tree vomit is ok ;-)
The other "fun" ingredients are various extracts where there is no way to know if the "good" sugar or "bad" sugar is used so when doing baked goods for the family I try to stick to all natural flavors in order to avoid any potential contamination.
 

Voted the Best Reply!

betteirene October 20, 2010
Beet sugar is fine, but cane sugar is de-colorized (whitened) by filtering it through activated carbon that might be of animal origin (bone char). But the bone char used in this filtering process is so far removed from its animal source that cane sugar processed through it is deemed kosher pareve, which, according to Jewish dietary laws, means that it contains no meat or milk in any form as an ingredient. But what's good enough for people who keep kosher is not good enough for all vegans. As I related in another foodpickle, my friend Sybil (Latin for "Vegan from Hell") is vegan most of the time, but will become vegetarian under certain circumstances. She will not use C&H or Domino granulated sugar because they use bone char filters, but she will use C&H's Sugar in the Raw because it's not white because it hasn't been filtered through bone.

And if you think she's being picky about her sweeteners, don't even get her started about honey, which she says is, in essence, bee vomit and therefore an animal product. There's also the argument that some bees are displaced, harmed or killed in its production, which is why some vegans choose compassionate alternatives to honey, like maple sugar or beet sugar.

I think a lot about food and where it comes from, but that vegan stuff is a little too far off the deep end for me.
 
Nancy February 19, 2019
You and Verdigris point out that individual vegans sometimes have private or different definitions of what they will consider ok to eat.
To take as one example vegans who don't recognize the kosher certification of some items that come from animals but are so far from their natural state that they are not considered meat:
1) some focus ONLY or mainly on the origin (was an animal killed to produce this)?
2) some focus ONLY or mainly on its condition as it arrives at your plate;
3) some focus ON BOTH.
I think Verdigris' has two good ideas - checking what individuals mean by their terms & putting labels of ingredients on foods served in an institutional or multi-host meal (e.g., pot luck dinner).
 
Sasha (. October 20, 2010
Ohhh, jenmmcd - that sounds horrifying ... what a dinner nightmare. Not to mention, bread isn't always vegan, so that could have gone wrong too. Hopefully you are still friends!
 
allie October 20, 2010
My understanding is that some vegans avoid sugar because of how some sugar is processed -- but there are brands of sugar certified as vegan. Many strict vegans don't eat honey, though my pretty strict vegan friend eats both regular sugar and honey, at least in the homes of others.
 
kellysnoms October 20, 2010
The few vegans that I know stay away from honey, though in my experience, almost any food item can provoke a heated debate among vegans.... Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the veganest of all?
 
jenmmcd October 20, 2010
Ahhh.. this brings back memories of the worst dinner I ever made.. dinner for a vegan and his wife. Made a simple tomato basil pasta, bruschetta, and grilled veggies. Turns out, wife hates tomatoes. And I added a few italian dried red chilis to the pasta sauce, which, as the sauce sat, got hotter and hotter and hotter... wife couldn't eat that dish at all as she hates spicy food too. But to the vegan part.. Husband went on and on about how much he loved the grilled veggies and asked what was in the marinade.. Oh, just a simple marinade of balsamic, garlic, honey... "Oh," he said. Yeah, honey is apparently on the "no no" list. If only I'd served bread.
 
thirschfeld October 20, 2010
that is an interesting question. While I am going to say most stay away from white sugar I think many enjoy agave nectar, brown rice syrup and anything along these lines. Although I would add, I am curious about where honey falls since it is a product of another species. Is it like milk, cheese and the likes?
 
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