Rotten Egg #1 - Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar

Cup of brown and white sugar

This week I present my first, out of many, rotten eggs. The ‘rotten egg’ will be a series of posts where I attempt to bust current food myths, and the first one I’m tackling involves the notion that brown sugar is somehow healthier for you than white.

Everyone is telling you to eat brown rice and to eat brown bread, so I can appreciate how you may extend this logic to brown sugar…but unfortunately the science just isn’t there. Do you or someone else you know justify adding 5 teaspoons of sugar to their coffee by saying “hey, it’s brown sugar”? If so, this post is for you…

The main argument for brown sugar being healthier is that it’s less processed and therefore, more natural; unfortunately in most cases this just isn’t true. To be cheeky, I can go so far as to make the argument that brown sugar is actually more processed because it requires additional steps to make the sugar brown…but we won’t go there. Sugar (white OR brown), is made from the same source either sugar cane or sugar beets. The refining process removes the molasses from the sugar cane leaving behind crystals. Most commercial brown sugars have this molasses added back into the refined white sugar for colouring and flavor…same product just different colour and different flavour...interesting.

Another argument for brown sugar being healthier is that by adding molasses to the final product extra vitamins and minerals, such as: iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium are also being added. This is true; however, the added vitamins and minerals are so minute it makes no difference to your health. The amount of brown sugar required to consume significant amounts of these nutrients negates any health benefits from the nutrients in the first place. Just an FYI - all types of sugar contain 15 calories per teaspoon according to the Sugar Association. This makes brown sugar and white equal for calorie counters.

Final verdict – this myth is officially a rotten egg. As for me, I use white sugar for tea and brown for coffee.

PS) Be careful not to read this and think you can easily just switch to honey. Honey is not necessarily a healthier alternative to white sugar because the fructose found in it is also readily converted into fat, which raises blood cholesterol levels as well.

Image courtesy of dichohecho