We’ve been told time and again that white sugar is bad for us. But what about brown sugar? Is brown sugar good for you?
This article takes a closer look at the other kind of sugar you often skip in the supermarket.
What’s with sugar? And why do we like it so much?
Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that we consume between 150 to 170 pounds of sugar annually. That’s nearly 200 pounds of sugar per person. Wow!
To put things in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 2005 and 2010, added sugars made up about 13% of the average adult’s calories. That means nearly 15% of what we consume daily are empty calories.
You probably can guess where the bulk of the sugars come from. Yup, sodas and sweetened beverages. Thirty-three percent of our added sugars come from these beverages. In adolescents, it’s even higher at 40% of all their added sugars.
White Sugar vs. Brown Sugar
You’ve probably heard someone say that brown sugar is better than white sugar. But is that really the case, and if so, should you be using it instead?
How White and Brown Sugar are Made
Common white sugar that we use daily is called “sucrose.” It is a combination of fructose and glucose, both of which are white in color and naturally comes from sugar cane or sugar beets.
The juice from sugar cane or the beets is filtered out and is then boiled down. And what remains is a thick sucrose syrup which begins to crystallize.
This is then placed in a machine that spins it around to separate out the crystals. This is what’s called “raw” sugar. And the remaining content is “molasses.”
Sugar manufacturers know that separating sugar from the sugar cane or beet juice does not always turn out perfectly.
Usually the first process gives you sucrose and what is called “first” molasses. The process of boiling molasses and crystal type sucrose again is called “second” molasses or “blackstrap” molasses.
This sugar will be brown in color and if further refinement is needed, you get white sugar. In other words, brown sugar is unrefined or incomplete purified sugar.
So, Is Brown Sugar Good for You?
Since brown sugar is still sugar, is brown sugar good or bad for you?
Compared to white sugar, the answer is yes. It is better than white sugar. Albeit only slightly. Here’s why.
- Firstly, brown sugar is slightly lower in calories and it has more water. Brown sugar contains only a little more than white sugar, due only to its molasses content.
- Brown sugar has just a little more calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium in it as well.
- The molasses content in brown sugar also provides a different taste (like caramel) than in white sugar. There is generally between 5% and 10% more molasses in brown sugar.
Of course, we have been talking about brown sugar produced in the United States.
Other countries who produce brown sugar gives you a whole other experience. Plus, there are a number of different varieties available when it comes to foreign made brown sugar.
- The Demerara, which is a sugar that has a larger grain than U.S. sugar. It has a pale amber coloring with a taste similar to toffee.
- The Jaggery is an earthy sweet brownish sugar is produced from coconut, palm or the java plant.
- The Muscovado is also a cane sugar product with a very strong molasses flavoring and it is fondly used in barbecue sauces and marinades.
- Piloncilo is a great tasting Mexican deep brown sugar with a strong, smoky molasses flavor.
- The Sucanat brown sugar is a crystallized pure cane sugar product with a higher molasses refinement flavor than any other brown sugar. It is intense in taste where it can be tasted in ginger cookies or spice cakes.
- Also, the Turbinado is a brown sugar which is the first process from sugar cane. It is similar to the U.S. brown sugar taste of molasses and caramel.
Bottom line: White and brown sugar are different because they’re made in different stages of the refining process. Brown sugar is the more “raw” version of white sugar.
And this makes it slightly better than white sugar. Because of the extra water content, it does taste different, and doesn’t give you as sweet a flavor as white sugar does.
The difference in flavor is why most people still use white sugar in baking as well as cooking.
That said, we need to remember that brown sugar is still sugar.
It is not a much healthier alternative to white sugar or other types of sweeteners. If you want to get into that comparison.
But the more important matter is, none of them, being added sugars are good for you. They’re empty calories, albeit they make food and drinks taste really good. We recommend that you enjoy them once in a while, but not on a regular basis.
If you are required to watch your blood glucose level, this is a sugar product that you must not consume too much of.
Just 1 tablespoon of brown sugar contains about 52 calories and 14 grams of carbohydrate, which is about the same as granulated white sugar.
Brown sugar with its molasses content is great in various cooking dishes, more than white sugar, but it is still a sugar product.