Brown Sugar, White Sugar – Which is Healthier?

sugar spilling over from a teaspoon

Do you find yourself paying more for brown sugar than the “regular” white sugar? Have you ever wondered which is healthier for you?

In order to answer, let’s explain how sugar is manufactured. Yes, although it comes from sugar canes or beets, sugar does go through quite a bit of processing before we see it in its final form on supermarket shelves.

What you need to know:

The raw materials utilized are either sugar cane stalks or sugar beet (a root). Let’s talk sugar cane today:

  1. After the sugar cane stalks are harvested, they are chopped into small pieces
  2. The stalk pieces are pulverized in order to release the sugary cane juice.
  3. the juice usually has some impurities in it such as mud, pieces of stalk and other stuff, so it is filtered using both mechanical and chemical processes (using  polyacrylamides).
  4.  The purified liquid is boiled until the water evaporates.
  5. The remaining “juice” is heated once again and the sugar begins to crystallize. A side product that is left over is called mother liquor (it is the source of molasses)
  6. A centrifuge is used to separate individual sugar crystals.

The result is raw sugar. It is also known as Turbinado or Demerara sugar. The crystals are relatively large and have a brownish tinge to them. Stay tuned folks, this is NOT brown sugar.

Raw sugar is shipped to a refinery for further processing to create the white sugar that we know:

  1. The raw sugar is heated and melts into a liquid again.
  2. The coloration is removed by using chemicals such as phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide or calcium dioxide.
  3. The liquid is boiled one last time in order concentrate it into the fine white granulated crystals that make up white sugar, or refined sugar.

Here’s the kicker: Brown sugar is made by taking refined sugar and mixing in some molasses. The molasses are not healthy and do not contain any important nutrients for the body.

Therefore, brown sugar cannot be considered healthier than white sugar, even though some marketers would like us to believe so. Each teaspoon of sugar contains 4 grams of sugar, which adds 16 calories to your food / beverage.

What to do at the supermarket:

All granulated sugars are more or less the same nutritionally. Sugar with molasses tastes a bit different (very few people can actually tell the difference) and behaves a bit differently in baking – the end result is slightly more moist.

 

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  • Eva

    This cannot be right. Everyone knows brown sugar is more back to nature. It is raw sugar and that is always more healthy. How can anyone say it is the same thing?

  • nicole

    So what do you recommend we use instead? If anything at all.

    • Greengurl

      It all depends on what you need to sweeten, avoid processed anything as much as you can. Enjoy the natural sweetness of many foods without adding sugar. If you must sweeten stevia is what I would recommend because it is very potent, you only need a little bit so overall you would use much less than white or brown sugar

  • Omesh

    You should show a pic comparing demerara, white and brown sugar so people can see the difference visually.

  • http://www.facebook.com/klaher Kelly Laher

    So is raw sugar better for you? I’m guessing yes in the refined category but in other ways how does it stack up against the white stuff? I have noticed many different colors of raw sugar on the shelves and I have purchased them all. I don’t buy white anymore. What’s the point of it being so refined in the first place?

    • Greengurl

      The least harmful sugars would be naturally occuring sugars, such as found in fruit

  • Caty

    I think there’s a difference between brown sugar and raw sugar. Raw sugar would be better.

  • Mal

    IMO, sugar is sugar, whether it be apple juice, cane juice, white, brown, molasses, maple, high fructose, etc…. While your body may process them differently, TO ME they only serve two purposes, Calories and Flavor. I try my best to limit Added Sugar in my diet. And I certainly try to avoid the completely artificial ones with questionable and potentially very harmful chemical components.

  • Cactus Wren

    And, with all possible respect, “molasses” IS not a plural, therefore the molasses in brown sugar IS not healthier and DOES not contain any significant nutrients.

    Thank you.

  • Romeo Jett

    I’m such a sweet guy, I just put my finger in my tea to make it sweet.

  • ginger_katz

    Polyacrylamide is misspelled. As a chemist, I had to point that out.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Corrected. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/LinaRHM Lina Roncancio

    I don’t consume brown sugar but I always recommended it to those that wanted a healthier alternative, so this just baffles me! I guess I’ve been right in avoiding sugar after all. What about honey and agave? Are those healthier choices? Now I don’t know what to think…

    • http://www.facebook.com/LinaRHM Lina Roncancio

      And what about stevia?

      • Greengurl

        honey is a good natural sweetener, that is if it is raw organic honey, not chemically processed honey product. Stevia can be good because it is very sweet, hopefully you would use less than stevia than sugar to sweeten.

  • waynecollections

    Still there’s an extra kick and taste to brown sugar that’s sweet to the tongue. ;)

  • Steve Cowie

    Not all processes are the same. Check how the company processes theirs. The only loose sugar I consume (sparingly) is unrefined molasses from this company.
    http://www.billingtons.co.uk/story/taste-the-difference/
    Molasses contains iron, calcium, magnesium, and
    potassium.