7 Surprising Benefits of Brown Sugar

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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. Brown sugar can either be commercially or naturally produced, with the former made by molasses being added to traditional white sugar, composing between 4% and 7% of the final product. 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. [1] [2]

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.
  • Natural Brown Sugar: It is made when there are some residual molasses left in the mixture when sugar is crystallized. This type of sugar has a sweet, slightly caramelized flavor, and is a more potent ingredient than traditional white sugar. [3]

Nutrition Facts

Sugars, brown
Serving Size :
Water [g]1.34
Energy 380
Energy [kJ]1590
Protein [g]0.12
Ash [g]0.45
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]98.09
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]97.02
Sucrose [g]94.56
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.35
Fructose [g]1.11
Calcium, Ca [mg]83
Iron, Fe [mg]0.71
Magnesium, Mg [mg]9
Phosphorus, P [mg]4
Potassium, K [mg]133
Sodium, Na [mg]28
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.03
Copper, Cu [mg]0.05
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.06
Selenium, Se [µg]1.2
Niacin [mg]0.11
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.13
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04
Folate, total [µg]1
Folate, food [µg]1
Folate, DFE [µg]1
Choline, total [mg]2.3
Betaine [mg]0.1
Sources include : USDA [4]

Nutrition Facts

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.

May Help Relieve Menstrual Cramps

In traditional medicine, some cultures have blended this variety of sugar and ginger into a healthy tea that can eliminate the discomfort of menstrual cramps. [5]

May Help Improve Skin Health

Using brown sugar as a skin exfoliant is one of the unexpected uses of this sugar; the rough texture makes it ideal for eliminating dirt, grime, and dead skin cells from your body’s largest organ. [6]

A jar of granulated brown sugar, a spoon and bowl of brown sugar powder, and brown sugar cubes on a cloth

Brown sugar is used very similarly to granulated white sugar, but it provides a touch of extra flavor. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Act As An Energy Booster

Like any other simple carbohydrate, this sugar does have an energizing effect on the body, making it a popular addition to morning coffee. [7]

May Aid in Weight Loss

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.

May Aid in Pregnancy

Following the 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. [8]

May Relieve Flatulence

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. [9]

May Act As a Remedy For Asthma

Anecdotal evidence says that mixing this sugar in warm water and drinking it down can suppress the inflammatory symptoms of asthma. [10]

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.

Side Effects

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.

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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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