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How beet sugar is born. An Italian excellence – Italian Cuisine

There are products whose origins we forget. We are so used to seeing them packaged in a perfect and clean way to forget that they are the result of hard labor in the fields and of the ingenious work of human transformation. It is rare that we stop to think that a can of peeled tomatoes, fruit juices, wine and even a simple sachet of sugar are born from the earth and can tell a story.

The story we are writing about today is all Italian. We are talking about beet sugar produced in the heart of the Po Valley, in Minerbio (BO), where it is located Italy Zuccheri. It is a production very close to many of us, which follows procedures that are clearly different from the best known and most widespread of the cane from Brazil, India, China, Caribbean …

For a start, the vegetable from which it derives is different: the reed is a tropical plant of the grass family, growing outdoors in warm and sunny climates.

170669There sugar beet instead it is a plant whose roots, very similar to large potatoes of elongated and pointed shape, are very rich in sucrose: it grows in temperate climates, under the ground and never sees the light. Indeed it arrives with its radicles up to two meters deep. And yet, pushing so thoroughly and working incessantly to take and release substances, it enriches so much the soil to be strongly desired by the producers of wheat in the rotation of crops. Yes, because if one year the beet is cultivated and the next one in the same field grows the wheat, the soil will have treasured mineral salts and amino acids and can return them to the cereal, which will be richer and will have better yields.

The agricultural rotation is annual: the life cycle of the beet would be about two years, but after 9 months from sowing the roots are already beautiful and ready to be processed. Therefore it can be harvested before completing its biological growth.

The reality that Salt and pepper he visited the work in a cooperative system, where the farmers who supply the product, or at least many of them, are also members and are directly involved in the management of the company. In practice, the final product is precisely those who, day after day, sowed, cultivated and processed the raw material, up to the finished product. Among other things, this is one of the very few 100% Italian companies that have managed to resist the changes of the 80s and 2000. If in the post-war period Italian sugar factories were around sixty, those active today are counted with one hand: over time in fact, there has been an overrun without appeal of cane sugar from distant countries, but also of beet sugar produced in other European regions.

Harvest and processing of beet

170672Harvesting takes place from the end of the summer until mid-autumn. Huge trucks transport tons of beets every day, which are carefully stored in huge heaps in front of the plant. The politeness towards the beet is also prompted by the signs scattered here and there that invite not to trample or damage them. If opened or split, in fact, a fermentation process begins, leading to the division of sucrose into glucose and fructose, compromising and rendering sugar beet unusable.

In this preliminary phase, a series of quality controls are also made on the raw material, then a roller carries the roots in the factory.

This is where the actual processing begins. The roots they are washed repeatedly, using the water obtained from the processing of the same beets, to avoid the waste of enormous quantities of water with an unsustainable environmental impact, then they are cut into julienne and passed in cooking columns where they are reduced to mashed, turning into sauce dark, dense and sticky. This slurry is still unclean and is filtered several times before being crystallized: all processing waste is grouped, dried and returned to the countryside, where they are used to enrich the soil of mineral salts and amino acids.

At this point the dark sauce is crystallized, centrifuged and rinsed, melted and recrystallized over and over again. On the one hand, dark and viscous molasses is obtained, which is stored and sold as a supplement for animal feeds or to yeasts (primitive sugar is an excellent nourishment for yeasts!), On the other, the product is finally reached more white, which will then be sieved to become a coarse-grained, fine, fine or veil-grained sugar, depending on its destination.

White or dark sugar? Myths to be debunked

170675It is thanks to this behind-the-scenes tour of the processing that we discovered that it is appropriate to debunk a myth: how many do not consume white sugar, thinking it is "bleached" chemically? Nothing could be more wrong. The brown sugar and the white beet sugar are exactly the same identical product: simply that dark is less worked. It has a color that tends to brown because it has been rinsed less often. Those who work in the plant have also told us that light-colored sugar is a fairly recent novelty: in the post-war period the machines were not as sophisticated as today, achieving the current white was not possible and people were used to consume a decidedly darker sugar, tending to beige.

Then the less refined sugar was a necessity. Today is a plus. In particular, 100% Italian beet raw sugar is one of the flagships of Italy Zuccheri: is called Nostrano, comes directly from the beets grown in the Italian fields, ensures balanced organoleptic properties and, thanks to a careful and skilful processing, maintains the nutrients contained in the juice of the mother beet.

The market currently offers many different products and the only way to understand where it comes from and how it has been processed is the sugar we are reading carefully the label, where are indicated raw materials and processing plants.

Barbara Roncarolo
February 2019

Changing food order to lower blood sugar: this is the key – Italian Cuisine

"Know your body. Choose your food ": this is the title of the latest book by Pier Luigi Rossi, a specialist in Nutrition Science, which suggests something simple, even easy, to keep blood sugar and insulin under control, and consequently weight, that is to change food order and focus on hormones. In short, knowing and being aware of the properties of food, overcoming once and for all the concept of low-calorie diet.

Bye bye calories
Once upon a time there was the low-calorie diet and the almost obsessive calorie count. It was thought to be able to manage your body and excess pounds simply by strokes of calories, or better by reducing the latter. And the efforts were added a sense of asthenia often a harbinger of malaise. Today, however, we are facing a new paradigm that talks about molecular diet and focuses not so much on calories, but on metabolism and calls into question concepts such as insulin and glycemia that we are accustomed to hear talking about pathological pictures (see diabetes) , but which in reality also regulate the appetite and the way we metabolize foods in healthy people.

Matter of metabolism (and not of calories)
The difference between a greater or lesser propensity to obesity in fact changes from person to person and depends on the way in which the ingested molecules react with the cells and the DNA of those who eat. The person responsible for blood sugar levels (and therefore insulin) is in fact the blood and the composition that he takes in contact with food. The goal, therefore, in this new vision must be to maintain post-lunch blood sugar at low levels, starting from vegetables instead of pasta. High blood sugar also means a high level of insulin, responsible for managing and regulating the sense of appetite. By exchanging the order of dishes, on the other hand, it is easier to keep glucose low

Example of a meal
In short, it is all about food and the right balance between meals based on carbohydrates and protein-based meals. Breakfast rich, but not traditional: better eliminate the excess of carbohydrates and enhance the protein, with some ham or fresh soft cheese. Soo welcome, just like in the old scheme of low-calorie diet, fruit-based snacks or centrifuged and during main meals just exchange the pasta with vegetables (fresh and finely chopped, to ensure that they do not stay too much in the intestine ); then a flow based on proteins and fibers (legumes, eggs, ham, meat, fish) is recommended and, finally, a liquid meal like a minestrone or a soup.

Molecular diet
In many places it is consumed as an entry, while in Italy it is the classic contour. Behold: others are right. The salad or vegetables in general should be eaten as an appetizer, at the beginning of everything. The ongoing obesity epidemic depends on poor body knowledge and measuring blood sugar and insulin is a priority for those who are overweight and it comes before any calorie counting. This is one of the pillars of the molecular diet, ie based not on calorie counting, but on the knowledge of the molecules that are ingested and of themselves. The goal then becomes to contain the daily dose of glucose and intervene on the liver, true director of metabolism.

From calories to molecules
Never focus on foods, eliminating important nutrients, but pay attention to how food molecules interact with our DNA. The book From calories to molecules, published by Aboca and written by Pier Luigi Rossi (who was among the experts of the High Council of Health and who is now a contract professor at the University of Bologna) explains this innovative concept well. First thing to know (and to remember) to move from the calories to the molecules is that all the foods we take in a day can be classified into two types of dish: vegetable dish, made with food from the earth, and animal dish, composed of foods derived from the animal world. Then you have to limit the carbohydrates but do not eliminate them, eat 5 times a day, possibly concentrating the foods in the first part of the day, and always combine fish or meat with a dose of bread (which has a lower carbohydrate content than pasta). The molecular relationship between glycemic carbohydrates and proteins in fact conditions insulin secretion.

Emanuela Di Pasqua,
January 24th 2017

21 January 2019

Photo credits: Wikipedia

Sugar, pasta, salt. Dark is really better? – Italian Cuisine

For centuries the most sought after foods were the white ones, considered the most refined. And in fact, never definition has been so apt as it is precisely the refining process that deprives them of the most "coarse" components (such as bran or some minerals) modifying their color and nutritional value. The association of values ​​between the light color of food and refinement continues today, but in the opposite sense: just when "refined" food is considered unhealthy. Therefore, the white from positive and "noble" has passed to be considered negative and "poor". And, on the contrary, dark foods are today considered naturally rich and healthier. But is it really (and always) like that?

Dark does not mean "integral"

The fact that a food is dark in color is no guarantee that it is healthier or less manipulated, nor richer in terms of nutritional content. It could be so in nature (like raw sugar) or it could be a "complete false", that is a food made with refined flour and then enriched with bran or fibers. In addition there are "wholewheat" foods that are clear in color, such as oatmeal. Then, if you want to be sure of buying an "integral" food, do not limit yourself to the images you find on the packaging or to the color: look for the product definition, which is indicated before the list of ingredients, and verify that it shows the word "integral".

Salt, refined or whole

The white salt that is on the market is sodium chloride, obtained from the evaporation of sea water or extracted from the mines of rock salt. In both cases, before being packaged, it must be purified with washes in water and then refined to eliminate the other salts it contains until only almost pure sodium chloride remains. To whom substances are added that prevent the crystals from sticking to each other (such as sodium or potassium ferrocyanide additives, indicated respectively with the abbreviations E535 and E536).
therefore, the refined salt is pure sodium chloride, without other minerals or trace elements, in particular if it is salt of rock salt. In fact, there is a type with 99% minimum sodium chloride, a percentage well above that of sea salt: it is the salt of the "pure" type, the driest, crystalline and selected.
instead the whole salt it does not undergo any treatment and is not refined. Therefore, in addition to sodium chloride, preserves the other minerals and trace elements it contains in nature. It is usually not added with antiplatelet agents and therefore, often, appears more humid and forms lumps more easily.

Sugar: white or brown?

To make it white, sugar (technically it is sucrose) comes subjected to numerous treatments: first it is purified, then bleached with sulfur dioxide and then concentrated. To make it more pure, it is then filtered with charcoal and then bleached with hydrosulphite. Finally, crystallization is carried out, to obtain smaller crystals of more regular size, and sometimes a second coloring is applied to make the product more attractive and eliminate any yellow veins left in the sugar.
Better then a dark sugar? It depends. If it is "raw" sugar, it is not really a "wholemeal" product, but simply a partially refined sugar, where the differences in color and flavor are due to the traces of molasses, present in very minimal quantities and not significant in terms of nutritional intake. In some cases to darken it is added with coloring: caramel (E150 c).
Another thing is "integral" sugar: it is boiled and then dried, and during this process it naturally aggregates into granules of heterogeneous size. Here because it never presents itself in crystals, but in grains or in powder form. Moreover, the fact that it does not undergo any refining process keeps its nutritional value unaltered.
In reality, whole and raw sugar have just a little more minerals, vitamins and enzymes, but, given the recommended quantities of consumption, they are irrelevant. The most significant difference is another: raw and integral sugar contain less sucrose and more molasses. And this makes them darker and more aromatic and, in the case of cane, even less sweet than refined sugar.

Pasta: normal or whole

Refined carbohydrates, like those found in "normal" pasta or white bread, raise the level of sugar in the blood and this causes a peak of insulin. In parallel i intestinal bacteria produce inflammatory compounds. Result: regular consumption of "refined" pasta or bread shifts the metabolism. It triggers triglycerides and body fat accumulates.
instead whole wheat pasta has a better impact on the body because it is obtained from durum wheat or other cereals (such as rye or spelled) processed without refining processes, and then complete with all their parts, including the outer one, where the fibers are concentrated. For this the wholemeal pasta maintains all nutritional properties of the cereal from which it is obtained.
In particular, in the case of whole wheat pasta (ie the typical Italian one) also contains more minerals, vitamins (especially group B and E) and tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates the synthesis of serotonin. This is why wholemeal pasta does not help only the intestinal regularity but favors good mood too.
And then it is also ideal when you are on a diet: in fact, in addition to being a little less calories of the other pastas, being rich in fibers, the wholemeal pasta Satisfy much more and it lowers the glycemic index of the meal, exercising a control on the insulin that helps not to get fat.

Manuela Soressi
December 2018