Brown Sugar Versus White Sugar

What's better for you brown sugar or white sugar? Many of us think that because brown bread is healthier than white bread and brown rice is healthier than white rice, then brown sugar must be better for us than white sugar. But is that really the case? Read on to find out.

Brown Sugar

Conventional brown sugar is made by adding molasses to ordinary white sugar. The amount of molasses determines the type of brown sugar: light brown sugar contains 3.5% molasses whereas dark brown sugar contains 6.5% molasses. When a recipe calls for brown sugar, this usually refers to light brown sugar.

Brown sugar is softer than white sugar because of the added molasses. The hygroscopic nature of the molasses also makes brown sugar moist. This is why brown sugar that has been stored for a long time will clump together.

Natural brown sugar, also known as raw sugar, is partially refined sugar cane. It's brown color is due to the presence of molasses (which is normally removed by further refining to extract white sugar). Natural brown sugar tends to be paler and drier then conventional brown sugar and has a distinctive taste. Some people feel it is healthier because it is subjected to fewer chemicals and processing steps.

White Sugar

White sugar, also known as table sugar or granulated sugar, is derived from tropical sugar cane, or temperate sugar beets. Sugar derived from sugarcane is generally more expensive than sugar from beets.

Sugar is extracted from sugarcane by crushing the stalks to release sweet juices, and then evaporating the juices to produce a concentrated raw sugar "crumble". Sugar beets are washed, sliced, and passed through a diffuser to extract the sugar into a water solution. This solution is then partially evaporated and fed to a crystallizer to produce raw sugar.

Raw sugar is refined and processed in a variety of ways to create white sugar, brown sugar, and molasses. The degree of processing by the manufacturer results in different degrees of whiteness and crystal size. Homemade brown sugar can be made by adding molasses to granulated white sugar. For light brown sugar, add one to 2 teaspoons of molasses for each cup of sugar. For dark brown sugar, add 1 tablespoon for each cup of sugar.


For all practical purposes, brown and white sugar have the same caloric content. According to the USDA, a teaspoon of brown sugar contains17 kcal compared with 16 kcal per white sugar.

Refined white sugar is pure sucrose, a white, odorless, crystalline carbohydrate. Like protein, carbohydrates pack 4 calories per gram. For comparison, fat contains 9 calories per gram.


In spite of claims that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, that is not the case since both are made from ordinary table sugar. Because of its molasses content, brown sugar does contain minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium but in such small quantities that there is no discernible health benefit. In short, there is very little nutritional difference between white sugar and brown sugar. The main differences between the two are taste and effects on baked foods.