Brown sugar is a very popular sweetener used in many different baked goods and culinary applications, but it also has some health benefits that might surprise you!
What is Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar is a type of sugar (sucrose) that gains a brown color due to the presence of molasses. The average brown sugar contains about 5% molasses by weight. Many people think brown sugar and jaggery are the same, but in fact, this variety of sugar contains far fewer minerals than jaggery, the latter of which comes from cane sugar, or date palm sap. Brown sugar is generally healthier than white sugar due to the molasses it contains, but it is still somewhat low in overall nutrients.
This molasses-infused sugar has a soft consistency, and often feels wet to the tough, but it doesn’t ever really go bad. Some of the flavors will begin to fade after 2-3 years, but it will still be useful in your recipes. The toasted flavor of this sugar is what makes it popular, as it tends to taste sweeter or more saccharine than regular sugar.
Types of Brown Sugar
There are multiple types of this sugar, including demerara, turbinado, dark brown sugar, and muscovado, among others.
- Light Brown Sugar: In some cases, molasses is simply added to regular white sugar, and in light brown variety, about 3% of the sugar, by weight, is composed of molasses.
- Dark Brown Sugar: Similarly, the dark brown variety has about 6% molasses by weight, giving it a slightly stronger flavor.
- Muscovado: This is the darkest variety, and the most potent in terms of flavor, mainly due to the slow-drying process, often done in full sun.
- Demerara: As mentioned, brown sugar is often made from sugar cane, and once the cane juice is extracted and boiled, it leaves behind raw crystals of a light brown color. These are then dried in a centrifuge, leaving behind a brown sugar that has a mild molasses flavor.
- Turbinado: Very similar in its production to the demerara variety, turbinado bears more of a honey flavor and is popular in tea.
When it comes to nutrition, brown sugar offers only slightly more nutrients than white sugar. It contains calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium, and a high concentration of carbohydrates, more than 97% by weight. A single teaspoon of this sugar delivers 17 calories.
Brown Sugar Benefits
The unique health benefits of brown sugar include its ability to boost energy levels, prevent cold, treat uterine infections, improve digestion, reduce flatulence, and aid in weight loss, just to name a few. Let us discuss them in detail below.
Eating an excessive amount of this sugar variety isn’t a good idea, but molasses is known to boost the metabolism and satiate hunger, which could help in weight loss efforts.
Following delivery of your baby, this sugar has been linked to helping speed the recovery, while also relieving some of the cramps and discomfort during pregnancy.
Some research has found that this sugar and the molasses it contains can help to suppress excess flatulence in the gut, which isn’t dangerous but can be embarrassing.
Brown Sugar Uses
This sugar can be used in many ways within the diet, similar to the applications of white sugar, but there is a different flavor that makes it preferred in some recipes. You will most likely find this sugar in desserts and baked goods, as well as in savory sauces and marinades, in meat load, and in various other popular dishes. You can also use this sugar in your coffee.
There are some side effects of this sugar when it is consumed in excess, which includes an elevated risk of:
As with white sugar, brown sugar should be consumed in moderation.