What Is “Real” Sugar?

Don’t drink sugary sodas. Really. They’re not good for you. And some say that diet sodas are even worse.

And there are those who say that the high fructose corn syrup used in most sodas is far worse for you than the old fashioned sodas made with sugar cane or beet sugar.

There are people who swear that sugar cane sweetened sodas taste better than those sweetened with HFCS. And many of those folks swear that Mexican Coke tastes better because it is sweetened with cane sugar. But a study investigating the fructose/sucrose mix of different foods and drinks showed that Mexican Coke has far too much fructose in it to not be at least partly HFCS sweetened.

Despite the corn syrup industry’s concerted efforts to convince you that it’s all the same stuff.

So just drink water. Your body needs it, it’s good for you, and it won’t make you fat.

OK, with that business out of the way, I can admit that I drink far more soda than I should. And that I prefer cane sugar sodas over HFCS sodas if for no other reason that a placebo effect.

There is a pretty big market for artisanal sodas these days, and many of them make a point of using cane sugar. And even big companies like Pepsi have noticed that there is a customer demand for cane sugar sodas. They had a line of “Throwback” sodas that were sweetened with cane sugar.

I prefer Coke to Pepsi. But the Throwback Pepsi tasted to me like how Coke used to taste before they switched to HFCS. That is, it does not taste (to me) like Pepsi. Unfortunately, they have discontinued the Throwback line and switched it at some point last year with “Made With Real Sugar” product:

Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar photo by Mike Mozart

I purchased some of this “Real” sugar Pepsi and I have to say it tastes exactly like HFCS Pepsi. Which is to say, absolutely nothing like Throwback Pepsi.

Giving Pepsi drinkers a “real” sugar alternative that tastes just like the HFCS version of the drink is a good thing for consumers. But it might also just be a marketing move.

You might notice that I keep putting quotes around the word “real.” There is absolutely no indication what the source of the “real” sugar is. Like the Mexican Coke label, the list of ingredients simply says “sugar.” And while many (most?) people think of cane sugar as “real” sugar, other forms of sugar (beet sugar, palm sugar, agave nectar, corn syrup) are just as “real” as cane sugar.

It may be misleading to call whatever sugar they want to use (likely the cheapest they can buy) “real” as a marketing ploy. But would you really trust a $146 billion dollar corporation to behave exactly the way you think they should when there’s money to be made from a simple word choice?

I like telling people that arsenic is organic and water is a chemical. We attach meanings to these words that imply value where there really is none.

So if you’re inclined to listen to me about these things, don’t drink this Pepsi Made With Real Sugar stuff. Don’t drink Pepsi or soda of any sort. Maybe if you’ll listen to me, I can follow my own advice.

(Pepsi photo from Mike Mozart’s Flickr, Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)

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