Your guide to being a healthy vegan  
or a healthy vegetarian! 
Health Guide:  
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 Legumes / Beans
 Oils & Fats
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 Organic Produce
 Salt & Sodium
 Soy & Tofu
 Sugar & Sweeteners

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Vegan / Vegetarian SugarSugar and Sweeteners

Some white cane sugar is processed with the use of bone char. If you're worried about this, you can contact the manufacturer of that brand of white cane sugar and ask to be sure. Because we at VegHealthGuide believe in being "practical" vegans rather than merely "symbolic" ones, we believe the effort you could put into worrying about a minute amount of animal product that may or may not be used in the production of cane sugar could be better focused elsewhere.

Quick Page Summary: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and white sugar whenever possible, as they're extremely unhealthy and have been linked to a number of health problems. Replace traditional sugar with unrefined, raw cane sugar, maple syrup, molasses, or stevia, a nutritional sugar substitute that doesn't affect blood sugar.

Healthy Choices

More important than the issue of whether or not white cane sugar should be considered vegan is the issue of our health. White sugar consumption has been linked to depressed immune systems, mood swings, allergies, diabetes, migraine headaches, obesity, and a whole host of other ailments that inhibit us. We should, from a health standpoint, strive to reduce the amount of sugar we consume.

You can minimize the damage that sugar does to you buy choosing unrefined sweeteners, such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, fruit concentrate, and beet sugar (still refined but never with bone char; they use an ion transfer process instead). Most of these sweeteners contain trace nutrients not found in your standard white cane sugar. Most also do not affect the your blood sugar levels in such a severe way.

Maple syrup and blackstrap molasses, in particular, are two of the healthiest sweeteners on the planet, according to the George Mateljan Foundation's "World's Healthiest Foods" web site. Tip: If you use maple syrup or blackstrap molasses, look for organic versions. Both non-organic maple syrup and non-organic molasses frequently use lard as a foam reducer (making organic much healthier—and vegan).

SugarIt's important for our overall health to reduce or eliminate the amount of sugar that our diets contain. North Americans consume an incredible amount of it every year—pounds and pounds per individual—through convenience foods, and soft drinks, "juices," candies, and baked goods. It's a hidden ingredient in toothpastes and even table salt!

You should especially avoid high-fructose corn syrup, which is common in many processed sugary foods, particularly soft drinks, as it appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation. Consuming a lot of this, like consuming too much fat, can contribute to weight gain. Recent research also suggests that fructose may also alter the magnesium balance in the body, which can accelerate bone loss.

Note: Brown sugar—unless the package specifies that the sugar is unrefined, you're probably looking at refined white cane sugar that had molasses (a by-product of making sugar that is removed) stirred back into it.

Stevia: A Completely Safe Sugar Alternative

A great-tasting sugar alternative that's completely safe, non-caloric, and completely free of side effects is stevia. Learn more about stevia at

"The only non-caloric sweetener I recommend is stevia, an herb in the chrysanthemum family native to Paraguay that you can buy in whole-leaf or extract form. The extract—stevioside—is a granular white powder that you dissolve in water and dispense with a dropper. Stevia is safe for diabetics and is widely used as a sweetener around the world, especially in Japan and Brazil. A few drops of the liquid provide the sweetness of an entire cup of sugar." —Dr. Andrew Weil

Stevia is sold as a "dietary supplement" in the U.S., who blocked its sales as a "sweetener" to keep it from competing with aspartame. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has petitioned the FDA to lift the ban on stevia, based on the fact that stevia is not a food additive, but a food with a long record of safety. The FDA has yet to act on this petition.

SteviaIn the meantime, you can find it in just about any herbal supplement store as a powder or liquid, and occasionally in loose-leaf form. One popular brand is SweetLeaf®. Because of the FDA regulations, the label doesn't mention that it can be used as a sweetener (instead, it calls it a "supplement"), but rest assured that it is perfectly safe as a sugar replacement. In fact, it's commonly used to treat diabetics! It's even safe for children and pregnant women.

Stevia is best (tastiest) when used in beverages (hot or cold). It's a bit on the expensive side (about $12 for 2 fl. oz.), but when you consider that a couple drops (when in liquid form) can sweeten an entire cup of tea, it's actually pretty economical.


Where can I buy healthy vegan alternatives?
Our sister site, Vegan and Vegetarian Products Guide, lists hundreds of tasty alternatives to dairy, eggs, meat, pet food, supplements, and more that can be found in many grocery stores.

This web site is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. This site is provided by health-minded volunteers, not professionals. Always confirm the information you read with verified medical journals and articles before using the information. Always seek the advice of your physician, dietician, or other qualified health provider before changing your diet or taking supplements.

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The information above is for informational purposes only.
Always remember to talk to your physician if you have questions or plan on changing your diet.

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