It's a common misconception that brown sugar and honey are healthier alternatives to white sugar. They're not. Dark sugar is still sugar regardless of its colour. “Raw” and "brown" imply a more natural sugar and are always an excellent selling point on food labels and a favorite marketing gimmick for manufacturers.
It's known that unheated, raw honey is better than processed commercial honey because of the presence of live enzymes. Similarly, people know that brown rice is less processed and healthier than white rice, and if sugar comes in a "raw" or “brown" form just like rice, they tend to rationalise that it is probably better. However, brown rice is different. It has some bran attached, so it’s higher in fibre and has significantly more minerals than white rice. But unfortunately, sugar that appears brown doesn’t have the same nice story.
- Brown sugar is not more nutritious than white. Brown sugar is usually white sugar with molasses added to the sugar crystals.
- Honey is not better for you than white sugar. All sugar – whether it is honey, white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup or molasses – provide energy (calories) but no significant amounts of other nutrients.
- Different sugars are used to provide different tastes and textures to food.
Here’s a chart of how these sweeteners compare with one another and with regular table sugar:
|Sweetener||Serving size||Calories||Carbs||Other nutrients of note|
|White (table) sugar||2 tsp||33||8 g||None*|
|Blackstrap molasses||2 tsp||32||8 g||Manganese (18% DV), copper (14% DV), iron (13% DV), calcium (12% DV), potassium (10% DV), magnesium (7%DV), vitamin B6 (5% DV), selenium (4% DV)|
|Rapadura||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Sucanat||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Turbinado sugar||2 tsp||30||8 g||None*|
|Evaporated cane juice||2 tsp||30||8 g||Riboflavin (3% DV), potassium (1% DV), manganese (1% DV), copper (1% DV), iron (1% DV)|
|Agave nectar syrup||2 tsp||40||8 g||None*|
|Brown rice syrup||2 tsp||40||10 g||None*|
|Honey||2 tsp||43||11 g||None*|
|Maple syrup||2 tsp||45||9 g||Manganese (22% DV), zinc (4% DV)|
*Less than 0.5% DV of any vitamins or minerals
The bottom line is that sugar is sugar. Too much sugar—whether it’s marketed as “natural” or not—can harm your health. Even sweeteners touted as natural or nutritious, like the ones discussed here, don’t typically add a significant source of vitamins or minerals to your diet. But in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with the sweetness that a little sugar adds to life. So if you’re going to eat it, eat the good stuff...just not too much of it.
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