Brown vs White sugar
Brown sugar or white sugar, that is the big question…
We all know that we should limit our sugar intake for various reasons such as controlling our blood sugar levels, especially if you are diagnosed with diabetes, and monitoring our waistlines. But is there a sugar that is better to use?
There is a lot of confusion around this, and many believe brown sugar is better. That is why we decided to clear up some of the confusion by bringing you science-based facts so that you can make informed choices when it comes to your sugar choices.
Sugar is sugar. It is as simple as that. We are wasting time debating over what sugar is best when we should rather just use the sugar that we enjoy the most in moderation. Nutrient wise, these two sugars are very similar, as they both come from sugar cane. Because of its molasses content, brown sugar does contain some minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. However, these minerals are only present in minuscule amounts so there is really no extra health benefit to using brown sugar.
The effect sugar has on our blood glucose:
Let us first look at the breakdown of carbohydrates (including sugar). When we eat sugar, it gets broken down into glucose (simple sugars), goes into the bloodstream, which then eventually gets used as energy by your cells. The more refined the carbohydrate, the quicker this reaction happens, resulting in a spike in blood sugar. Your body does not know the difference between something like white or brown sugar. Whether you get sugar from white sugar, brown sugar, a coconut, an aloe plant or any other source – your body will metabolise it the same way! Therefore, we should not pick one over the other thinking it will be better for us as both will raise your blood sugar equally.
Can sugar make me gain weight?
There is a long-held belief that when you eat sugar you inevitably gain weight (conveniently omitting or forgetting that there are other parts of the diet too). However, weight gain or loss is much more complex, and it doesn’t just involve the one type of food that we eat.
Our bodies need a certain amount of energy every day to ensure that they can function properly, for example, to keep our hearts beating, for our lungs to breathe, to ensure that our muscles have adequate blood perfusion, and so much more. When we exceed this amount of energy, our bodies can take the extra energy and store it as fat. It is all about that energy balance.
The thing about sugar is that it is an energy-dense food source, meaning that it is high in calories. Where the problem comes in however is that it is not nutrient-dense, meaning that it is low in nutrients and it does not provide you with many nutrient benefits.
If high amounts of sugar are combined with a high-calorie (i.e., energy-dense) diet, it can contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it is better to get our energy from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, rather than energy-dense foods that are poor in nutrients such as sugar and saturated fats.
With that being said, there is nothing wrong with using sugar in moderation. It is not JUST the sugar that makes you gain weight, but rather the combination of your whole diet and that your total energy intake exceeds your body’s requirements.
Now, what is the difference between the two?
As mentioned, both brown and white sugar come from sugar cane. The type of sugar differs due to the processing of the sugar. Brown sugar contains molasses, and because of that differs in flavour and colour. Due to their different colour and taste, they produce slightly different end products when used in baking. Brown sugar will provide more of a caramel taste, and because of the extra molasses, retains more moisture resulting in a denser product, while white sugar will produce a lighter and sweeter product.
A diet high in sugar can contribute to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, and can lead to tooth decay, despite the type of sugar. However as mentioned, when used in moderation, sugar can form part of a healthy balanced diet. So, choose the sugar that will best suit the purpose for its use, whether it is to get a specific end result in a product, or taste preference, not because one might be better than the other.