Vegans & The Sugar Debate

Nothing is more confusing than trying to figure out “the rules” about sugar and sweeteners where vegans and vegetarians are concerned.

I’ve spent the weekend surfing the web, reading forums, opinions, papers, theories, and so on, regarding the ethics of why we shouldn’t eat table sugar or its derivatives (cane sugar is processed with bone char) or why we shouldn’t be so picky (but beet sugar isn’t) or why it’s better to be safe than sorry (you can’t tell from the packaging label which one you are getting); I’ve seen websites that go on and on about how Splenda has been tested on animals by one of the worst abusers of the animal testing labs but I’ve also seen Vegetarian recipe sites full of Spenda recipes.  Some people say to stick with natural sweeteners like agave nectar and maple syrup but others say they wouldn’t dare put that in their coffee.

The really troubling thing is that I started this trouble query because I found a recipe that called for sugar in my Quick-Fix Vegetarian cookbook by Robin Robertson and I know that all of the recipes in there are vegan or so she claims (and so do many of the people who wrote recommendations on I thought I’d read somewhere that sugar was a vegan no-no, so when I came across that ingredient in her cookbook, I got sidetracked from my menu planning (again) in search of an answer.

As you can see, I don’t think there is a correct answer for me, anyway. I’m not doing the vegan eating because of the ethics, though that is a nice afterthought. I’m here for my health, so I’m inclined to agree with the “don’t be so picky” crowd. The only issue is that I’m also here to lose some weight and I haven’t actually used real sugar except for Christmas baking since the 1990′s. My doctors don’t want me to have aspartame, which is why I only drink soda with Splenda — and, o.k., I haven’t been able to commit to giving up my cold caffeine yet; at least, I make my own at home. I have been trying agave nectar the last few months in my smoothies and cereal in place of the Splenda and I like it. I might be convinced to try Stevia once. My health nut aunt, my inspiration, swears by it.

Anyway, I was hoping that there were going to be some clear cut rules out there on what to eat and what not to eat (like Weight Watchers©), but other than the real obvious things, a lot of it is kind of like religion — there’s a lot of debating over the interpretation.

…for every person we convince that veganism is overly demanding by obsessing with an ever-increasing list of ingredients, we do worse than nothing: we turn someone away who could have made a real difference for animals if they hadn’t met us! Currently the vast majority of people in our society have no problem eating the actual leg of a chicken. It is not surprising that many people dismiss vegans as unreasonable and irrational when our example includes interrogating waiters, not eating veggie burgers cooked on the same grill with meat, not taking photographs or using medicines, etc.

Instead of spending our limited time and resources worrying about the margins (cane sugar, film, medicine, etc.), our focus should be on increasing our impact every day.  (How Vegan? Ingredients vs. Activism)

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