In Defense of Sugar

Why try not to eat much white sugar, but we do keep it in our pantry! Here’s why we’ve chosen to keep this ingredient, and our balanced approach to using and eating white sugar.

Why try not to eat much white sugar, but we do keep it in our pantry! Here's why we've chosen to keep this ingredient, and our balanced approach to using and eating white sugar.

Sugar isn’t controversial.  You could spend eons perusing the arguments over gluten, corn, grain soaking, nightshades, and shellfish, but who’s going to raise a spoon in defense of sugar, unanimously stamped as unhealthy?  Well, I am, I guess.

Like most children, I was addicted to sugar when I was little.  I pinched sugar out of the box when making cookies.  If something sweet was offered to me I ate it without question, unless it was from a creepy stranger driving by in an unmarked white van.  Sugar did not make me fat, and I supposed that I could deal with any other effects it might have on my body at a much later date.

If you’re pursuing a healthy diet, I do believe that cutting back on sugar is one of the best things you can do.  Many people don’t realise how much sugar they consume on a daily basis.  In retrospect, I’m shocked that I used to think that one to two soft drinks a week, juice at breakfast, and a daily dessert or mid-afternoon snack was moderate.  When I realised this and started my blog, I assumed that one day I would have to give up white sugar altogether.

But recent musings on a healthy yet realistic approach to food have me convinced that giving up white sugar altogether is not a path I’ll take.  There are some pastries, cookies, drinks, cakes, etc. in which you simply can’t omit white sugar without altering their flavour for the worse.  White sugar adds clean sweetness, and that’s it.  No flavours to overpower other ingredients.  (The only exception I can think of is if you intentionally “burn” or caramelize the sugar to alter its taste.)  This makes white sugar ideal for more delicate creations in which you want other flavours showcased, like cream in custards or rum and butter in a rum cake.

That said, I’m pretty picky now about what sweets I eat.  I’m no longer the girl who takes sweets just because they’re there.  I pass up the cornucopia of store-bought or partially-homemade desserts at a potluck, or soft drinks that I don’t really enjoy.  It has to be truly tempting–something I’ll savour, like a spicy Coke at a restaurant, a completely from-scratch cake, or chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven.

Perhaps I’ve realised that once you’ve learned to respect white sugar, it can be rather fun to welcome it back into your kitchen.  Happily, during my “use white sugar only as a body scrub” days I’ve learned how to incorporate a few other, more healthy sweeteners.  I’ll be posting about these in the next couple of weeks.


  1. Elsie, I’ve been meaning to check out your blog for a while and I’m so glad that I chose this post to do it. I totally agree with everything you’ve said! In the last year I’ve moved much more in the “real food” direction that you describe in the about section of this blog, and I’ve been much happier & healthier for it. I’ve also come to appreciate sugar/sweets & savour it when I have it. I look forward to reading more of your great posts! 🙂 (As a total side note – I love that you use British spellings. You’re a girl after my own heart! Did you pick that up when you were at Oxford?)

  2. Thanks, Jami! Moderation is the key in so many things.

    Laura, I’m so glad you stopped by! I think real food is so much fun, and there’s a lot to learn in this area. It’s very rewarding. I discovered real food through blogs…what about you? Do you ferment stuff in your kitchen and drink raw milk??(: I might’ve been doing British spellings before Oxford because I’ve loved the literature for so long, but I’m pretty sure Oxford cemented it. I was pleased that none of my Covenant English professors corrected it in papers. Many of them are kindred spirits, anyway.

  3. Hi Elsie! I’m having a “health cash giveaway” in July. Erin from The Humbled Homemaker is joining and thought you might be interested. Email me at [email protected] if you would like more details on being a part of it. Thank you! Love the information here. 🙂 (I didn’t see a contact email, so I hope it’s ok that I left a comment instead :))

  4. Elsie – I’ve come to real food some through cookbooks and some through blogs. I’m very new to the whole thing; haven’t made it to fermentation or raw milk yet. Your post on homemade yogurt might help me make the leap – I’ve been interested in doing it before but hadn’t found any suggested methods that seemed feasible.

    As for spelling – glad your Covenant profs didn’t give you hard time. When I was there I was told that in the English department we used American spelling and nothing else. Dr. Haddad was the only one who let me use British spelling. 🙂

  5. Laura, let me know if you have any questions. I just acquired some kefir grains today, so that’s my next project. It’s supposed to be pretty easy to make, and has even more bacteria than yogurt.

    1. It was a revelation for me! I love real, traditional food….but white sugar IS an old food that people have enjoyed for many years. Just, as a rare treat! Some people will disagree, but I feel that there are Certain Things that I must make with fine, granulated sugar to get the taste right.

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