Is brown sugar better for diabetes than white sugar?

A comparison of brown and white sugar

Brown sugar vs. white sugar… is the color the only difference? The two have the same origins, but for some reason, brown sugar is perceived as healthier. The few differences they do have, though minuscule, are important for those with diabetes.

The origin of both brown sugar and white sugar is either the sugarcane plant or the sugar beet. Brown sugar takes in its color from the addition of molasses. This makes it darker and adds some nutritional elements. But before the addition, they both are nearly the same nutritionally.

By weight, brown sugar has fewer calories and carbs The molasses properties of brown sugar make it higher in potassium, iron, and calcium than white sugar. This is true even though the amounts in a typical serving size are not that different. The two do have different tastes and properties, which give them different functions as additive ingredients. In a normal person in overall good health, these differences will not likely affect your health.

Brown sugar and white sugar have the same origins. Even though they have small differences in composition and taste, brown sugar and white sugar have almost identical nutritional values and the same effects on the levels of sugar in your blood.  

How are the two sugars processed?

All sugars are manufactured by juice extraction from sugarcane or the sugar beet. The steps include cleaning, crystallization, and drying to the form of raw sugar (white). During manufacturing, the sugar crystals are separated from the dark brown, thick syrup known as molasses. This makes the brown sugar. Molasses from sugar cane are sweet, but molasses from the sugar beet are not. According to The Sugar Association, this type of molasses is used for animal feed.

Manufacturers can boil the brown sugar syrup to make brown sugar. The flavor, sugar moisture content, and color are determined by the amount of molasses used. Variations of crystal size and molasses quantity allow different types of foods, drinks, and other recipes to be made.

Types of white sugar include granulated, caster, powdered, and fruit sugars. Brown sugar types include light brown, dark brown, muscovado, and turbinado sugar.

Do both sugar types affect blood sugar?

Sucrose is the main component of brown and white sugars and can cause blood sugar level spikes. Sucrose has a high rating on the diabetic glycemic index. Both types of sugars can increase your blood sugar just as much as some carbs.

Regardless of the type of sugar you eat, you need to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This is especially important if you have diabetes. Modifying your diet to decrease sugar and carb intake can prevent the risk of further complications from diabetes in the long run. Brown and white sugar are both considered to be sugar additives. They are associated with a decrease in insulin sensitivity and increased risk of developing several chronic conditions.

Where do we get sugar from in our diets?

Naturally, we find sugar in fruits, veggies, and dairy. It's also used as an additive in food and drinks. Sugar additives, or “free sugars,” are where most of the health debate comes in. Free sugars include:

  • Table sugar
  • Sugars used in baking
  • Added sugars hidden in ready meals and sauces

How does sugar affect diabetes?

When you eat foods that have carbohydrates, they're broken down into sugar by your digestive system and then enter your blood. As your blood sugar levels begin to rise, your pancreas in turn produces insulin. Insulin helps your body to absorb blood sugar for storage and energy.

As your cells begin to take in the sugar, your blood sugar levels fall, prompting your pancreas to begin to make glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that tells your liver to release stored sugar. The back and forth of insulin and glucagon makes sure that cells in your body have a steady supply of blood sugar.

The development of type 2 diabetes is highly dependent on carbohydrate metabolism. Diabetes develops when your body uses insulin improperly or can’t make enough of it. Diabetes usually develops over a number of years as your cells stop responding to insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes blood sugar and insulin levels to remain high after the consumption of meals. After a long time, the demands of insulin production wear thin, and insulin production will stop eventually.

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