can vegans eat sugar

Can Vegans Eat Sugar?

A lot of people are curious, can vegans eat sugar? When I started researching vegan foods, I was shocked when I read somewhere that sugar isn’t vegan. And dessert lover as I am, I thought I could never make this vegan lifestyle. Luckily, after more research, I found out that vegans can eat sugar. But there are a few things you need to know. Read this and find out everything you need to know about sugar and veganism.

Can vegans eat sugar?

Yes, vegans can eat sugar. But not all brands of sugar are vegan. The refining process of making white sugar often uses bone char, which is made from animal bone. However, many sugar companies have stopped using bone char in their refining process.

How is sugar made?

First things first. To answer what we need to know about veganism and sugar, we must find out how sugar is made. But don’t worry, I’m not going bore you with a novel about the history of sugar. Here is just a quick brief about the process of making sugar.

The steps of making sugar:

  1. First, sugar beets or sugarcane are harvested and brought to a factory. 
  2. Then, the sugar beets or sugarcane go through a process called “diffusion”. In diffusion, the plant material is soaked in hot water and the sucrose molecules seep out of the plant into the water. 
  3. Afterward, the sugar water goes through a series of filters to remove any impurities. 
  4. The sugar water is then boiled until it becomes a thick syrup. 
  5. The syrup is then cooled and spun in a centrifuge, which separates the solid sugar crystals from the liquid.
  6. The sugar crystals are then washed and dried before being packaged and sold.

And where do animal products come into the process of making sugar? The answer is bone char. 

What is bone char?

Bone char, also known as natural carbon, is a black, porous substance made from the bones of cows. It is used as a filter to remove impurities from the sugar water during the sugar refining process (see step 4 above). 

Bone char also helps to improve the taste and color of the sugar and can also be used to remove impurities from drinking water. 

While bone char is an effective way to purify sugar and water, it is important to note that it is not a vegetarian or vegan product. As such, it is usually avoided by those who follow these diets.

Can vegans eat white sugar?

White sugar is often refined using bone char, which means it is not vegan. You can use raw or brown sugar instead, which is usually vegan.

If you really want white sugar, you can get organic white sugar, which should not be refined using bone char but always check the labels to be sure.

How do I know if sugar is vegan?

The best way to know if sugar is vegan is to check the label. However, most raw, and brown sugars are usually vegan.

The process of filtering sugar with bone char is usually done with cow bones, making it not suitable for vegetarians let alone vegans.

There are plenty of plant-based substitutes for white sugar such as coconut sugar, date syrup, maple syrup, and molasses.

White sugar alternatives

There are many vegan white sugar alternatives available on the market today. Some of the most popular include:

  • Stevia: A natural sweetener that is extracted from the stevia plant. It is often used as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking.
  • Agave nectar: A sweetener made from the agave plant. It has a similar taste to honey and can be used in place of white sugar in many recipes.
  • Maple syrup: A sweetener made from the sap of maple trees. It has a distinct flavor and can be used in place of white sugar in some recipes.
  • Brown sugar: A type of sugar that is brown in color due to the molasses content. It can be used in place of white sugar in many recipes.
  • Raw sugar: A type of sugar that has not been refined or processed. It is often used in baking and cooking as a sugar substitute.

What vegans say about eating sugar

Sugar is very difficult to avoid, and companies do not have to explicitly say whether the sugar used in their product was refined using bone char or not.

Just buy certified vegan products and you’re on the safe side.

I live in the Netherlands and bone char sugar is not a thing anymore. All sugar is vegan.

Key takeaways

Vegans want to exclude all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Because of this, vegans do not eat or use animal products. 

This includes honey, dairy, eggs, leather, and silk. This also extends to products like cosmetics and soap which may have been tested on animals or contain animal-derived ingredients. 

And what about sugar? Well, vegans can eat raw sugar as it does not involve the use of bone char. However, white sugar is often refined using bone char which is not vegan. 

As a result, vegans may want to avoid eating white sugar or look for brands with a vegan label.

See also: Is Salt Vegan? Yes, and Here’s Why



Petra profile image

Hi, I’m Petra and for most of my life, I was an omnivore. A vegan couple made me curious about veganism, so I did some research. What I found out about the animals, our planet, and the health benefits of a vegan diet made me go vegan overnight. It’s been 5 years now and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

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