What are the main heath differences, if any?
Not really. The only thing brown sugar really has on white sugar is that it has a lower caloric value due to higher water content. Brown sugar is just white sugar that has molasses added to it. However, natural brown sugar, or raw sugar is better (healthier) than both white and brown sugar. It is not processed with chemicals like phosphoric acid, formic acid, sulfur dioxide, preservatives, or any bleaching agents or viscosity modifiers like regular white/brown sugar. Natural brown raw sugar is nutritionally rich, retaining all natural minerals and vitamins inherent in sugarcane juice, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. For more info, click here.
Like elifitz said, brown sugar is not really better for you. The two are nutritionally similar. You might think that brown sugar is less refined, and therefore potentially better for you. However, this is not typically the case. Unless it is raw brown sugar, usually manufacturers refine the sugar, then add mollasses back to it to give it a more even appearance. The molasses does have a little bit of minerals, but it’s not really significant.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to brown sugar and white sugar (because as elifitz and kelseyleafless1 said, neither one really has any nutritional value and despite anyone’s best efforts to avoid sugar, sometimes you just need a little something sweet in your life!) you should consider trying barley malt or brown rice syrup.
Barley malt usually comes in a liquid form and is made from sprouted barley, through the process of malting. Barley malt is a healthier and more natural form of sugar because its primary sugar type is maltose (a more complex form of glucose) which can come in concentrations of anywhere from 42% – 65%. It has a ‘malty’ flavor and is often considered less (commercially) sweet than normal sugar but has significantly more flavor to it so you may be inclined to use less. Most beneficial? Contains no fructose (simple sugar) at all.
Brown rice syrup comes from soaking brown rice with barley malt (see above) in order to break down the starch in the rice into more accessible sugars. The liquid that is produced from that process is then strained and reduced to a thicker syrup like substance. This substance is what we call brown rice syrup which contains about 45% maltose (a more complex glucose) and has a similar taste to honey but is significantly less sweet. Most beneficial? Also contains zero fructose. Least beneficial? Still has quite a few calories so use in moderation.
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