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The answer is NO — not really. Most people think that commercial brown sugar is healthier than the white version, but it's almost equally bad. Paying double for a similar thing — marketing did an amazing job once again.

Advertising Is Gold

Don’t get fooled by the advertisements. The difference between brown and white sugar is nothing like the difference between brown and white rice — or brown and white bread — where brown bread contains full grains and all the nutrients. Despite its popularity, brown sugar is actually an unhealthy thing to put into the body, like all unnatural sugars.

Although people popularly speak of several health benefits of brown sugar, from anti-aging properties to relieving menstrual cramps, there is no scientific proof to actually support these claims from a nutritional standpoint.

Sugar is one of the most commonly used items in the kitchen. That first cup of coffee, fruit juice, shake or any kind of chocolate — they all contain sugar and we use it generously. Almost no biscuit or cake can be made without it. Although they’re almost the same from a nutritional perspective, there are a few differences between white and brown sugar. The white crystals are more common, but many people prefer to use brown sugar over white. Brown sugar behaves better during the baking process, however white sugar tastes sweeter. White sugar has a longer shelf life and dissolves more easily when you put it in liquids. All natural nutrients from the sugar cane are removed in the refining process.

The Production Of Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is a wide term, because there is more than one way to make it. Basically, it is just a sugar that contains molasses which gives it that distinctive taste and color, but there’s more to the story. Brown sugar can be:

  • Partially refined or unrefined — sugar that still contains molasses from the original refining process. It is often labeled as natural, raw, muscavado, and factory, among other names, and these sugars look wet and not as soft as other (refined) sugars. Although there is more molasses in natural brown sugar than in the refined type, it still has minor nutritional value and the mineral content is minimal.
  • Refined brown sugar — sugar that is made by adding sugar cane molasses back to the already refined white sugar crystals. Manufacturers have to carefully control the ratio of sugar crystals and sugar cane molasses. This is the sugar that almost all people call by the generic term “brown sugar” — commercial, soft, and widely available.
There are light and dark brown sugars, depending of the amount of molasses inside. Dark brown sugar has around 6.5% of molasses, and light brown (golden brown) sugar contains about 3.5%.

Nutritional Value

Brown sugar has a lower caloric value than white sugar because of the water inside it, but it packs more densely due to its smaller crystals, so it may contain more calories if you measure by volume. Brown sugar has 373 calories in 100 grams, and white sugar has 396.

Mineral content is quite low, almost non-existent, and all present traces come from the molasses that is added to white sugar. Molasses can be a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. One tablespoon covers 20% of the recommended daily value of all. We’ll talk more about the benefits of molasses in the second part of the article.

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