Brown Sugar vs White Sugar: Health Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

There has long been a debate about brown sugar vs white sugar, but there are some important differences to consider when choosing one for a recipe. These differences arise on the basis of appearance, taste, nutrition, and health benefits. Let us discuss this.

Brown Sugar vs White Sugar

While they are both sweet additives for baked goods and desserts, there are many things that separate brown sugar vs white sugar.

Appearance

  • White sugar is a colorless and odorless granulated sweetener that forms the basis of many different doughs in baking.
  • Brown sugar is made by combining molasses with normal white sugar. Raw sugar is brown, but additional processing can remove that molasses, resulting in white granulated sugar.

Taste

  • White sugar is often preferred because it doesn’t have an overpowering taste, and is an easy complement to most ingredients in sweet preparations.
  • Brown sugar can be extremely useful in cooking, due to its slightly caramelized, nearly bitter flavor. This makes it a favorite in many muffins and seasonally spiced recipes.
Brown sugar and white sugar in two different spoons

While they are both sweet additives, there are many things that separate brown sugar vs white sugar. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition

  • White sugar is very low in nutrients since most of the minerals and other compounds are filtered out during processing.
  • White sugar contains roughly 16 calories per teaspoon, which is nearly identical to brown sugar.
  • Brown sugar contains iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, but the amount of brown sugar you typically use is small, so this nutrient contribution is minimal, or even negligible.

Uses

  • White sugar helps to establish the pH level of a given recipe.
  • While these two sugar types are often substituted for one another, brown sugar can make a notable difference to flavor when used in place of white sugar.

Health Benefits

  • Brown sugar can come in a variety of strengths, based on the percentage of molasses by weight, typically ranging from 3%-10% of the total weight. The more molasses brown sugar contains, the more health benefits it can confer.

Which is Healthier?

  • Brown sugar is widely considered the healthier of the two sugar varieties, but that is solely due to the molasses content.
  •  Always consume both types of sugar in moderation to protect against diabetes and cavities.
  • White sugar can increase your risk of diabetes and other metabolic issues, and can also lead to weight gain, as white sugar is commonly found in many foods that aren’t good for weight control.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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