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Is Brown Sugar A Better Alternative To White Sugar?

There is no truth to the myth that brown sugar is better than white sugar. Contrary to the common belief, there is no difference between brown and white sugar. Both have the same nutritional value. The difference lies only in color, texture, and flavor. 

Sugar is a natural ingredient that has been part of the human diet for thousands of years. There are many different types of sugar. Among them, brown and white sugar are the most popular. This article compares brown and white sugar to help you decide which one to choose.

What Is White Sugar?

White sugar, also called table sugar, granulated sugar, or regular sugar, is a common and most-used type of sugar. It is made either of beet sugar or cane sugar. It has been refined to extract sucrose, a natural sweetener, and remove all of the naturally present molasses in it.

What Is Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar is an unrefined or partially refined sucrose sugar product with a rich flavor and distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. Molasses from sugar cane are used in the production of brown sugar. This gives brown sugar its color, with less needed to make light brown sugar and more for dark brown sugar. Brown sugar is also white sugar with molasses added, making it brown. 

Brown Sugar Vs. White Sugar: What Is The Difference?

Regular consumption of white sugar has been associated with adverse health effects. This negative publicity of white sugar has given an advantage to its darker cousin - brown sugar. Though both may have gone through slightly different processes, that does not mean they are different or that one is better than the other in terms of health.

According to Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta, "Both white sugar and brown sugar are similar, nutritionally and also calorie-wise. The only difference lies in the flavor, color and the process these both go through" says Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta.

The Process

Sugar is produced from sugarcane or sugar beet plants. The initial manufacturing process is similar for both Brown Sugar and White Sugar. Both plants undergo a similar function to produce sugar. However, the methods used to make it into brown and white sugar differ.

First, the juice from both crops is extracted, purified, and boiled to form a thick brown syrup called molasses that eventually crystallizes. Next, the crystallized sugar is centrifuged to produce sugar crystals. A centrifuge is a machine that spins extremely fast to separate sugar crystals from molasses. White sugar is processed further to remove excess molasses and create smaller crystals. Refined brown sugar is simply white sugar that has molasses added back to it. Meanwhile, whole, unrefined brown sugar undergoes less processing than white sugar, allowing it to retain some of its molasses content and natural brown color.

Nutritional Value

Nutritionally, white sugar, and brown sugar are similar. Brown Sugar is equally high in carbohydrates. However, unlike white sugar, brown sugar contains slightly more minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, copper, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin B-6.  It has 83 milligrams (mg) per 100 g of Calcium compared to 1 mg per 100 g of white sugar. Moreover, per teaspoon, the tiny differences in these mineral amounts are not worth consideration. As sugar is not a nutrient-dense food, it is called “empty calorie.”

From a nutrition perspective, there's no advantage to using white sugar over brown sugar or vice versa. The Sugar Association says:

"Nutritionally speaking, all-natural sugars have relatively comparable nutritional value with approximately 15 calories per teaspoon (4.2 g)."


It will surprise people who think brown sugar is healthier than white sugar. But they both contain similar calories. Brown sugar contains 380 calories per 100 grams (g), while white sugar contains 385 calories per 100 g. Brown Sugar contains only 0.25 fewer calories than white sugar, which is negligible. 

 According to Dr. Manisha Arora, white sugar is a pure carbohydrate that further adds fat to the body and causes other problems. In contrast, brown sugar is also white sugar with molasses added, making it brown. Brown sugar has more liquid and a slightly less concentrated sweetness with its tiny bit of syrup. Brown sugar contains 95 percent sucrose and 5 percent molasses, which adds flavor and moistness but has no nutritional benefits over white sugar. So brown sugar has equal health risk factors to white sugar.

Culinary uses

White and brown sugar can be used in different ways in baking and cooking. Both sugars have different flavors and textures, and while they can sometimes be used interchangeably, that can affect the dish’s color, flavor, or texture.

The molasses in brown sugar retains moisture, so using it will result in softer baked goods. For example, the surface of cookies made with brown sugar will be moist and dense, while cookies created with white sugar will be airier and rise more.

Because of this, white sugar is commonly used in baking goods that need to rise correctly, such as meringues, mousses, souffles, and fluffy baked goods. Conversely, brown sugar is used in dense baked goods like zucchini bread and decadent cookies.

Health Risks

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to limit added sugars to 10% of their daily calories to help avoid the health risks of chronic diseases. Therefore, if a person consumes 2,000 calories daily, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugar, equal to 12 teaspoons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that overeating added sugar could increase a person’s risk of potentially serious health conditions, such as:

  • EExcess weight and obesity

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Heart disease.

"The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke," says Dr. Hu.

Additionally, sugar is a food low in beneficial nutrients, so people should limit their sugar intake to occasional treats. Moderation is the key; consuming less white sugar and brown sugar will not harm.


Brown and white sugar are the two most common and popular sugar varieties. Though the two varieties are produced slightly differently, brown sugar is just white sugar mixed with molasses. The difference is only in taste, color, and culinary use.


Brown sugar contains marginally more minerals than white sugar but will not provide any health benefits. The toxic truth about sugar is that it makes the body vulnerable to numerous other diseases like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart issues. Thus, brown sugar or white, excessive intake of either can be hazardous to  health. Consumption of all types of sugar should be limited for optimal health. 


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