Misconceptions about brown and white sugar are prevalent.
Although they’re produced from the same sources, brown sugar is often touted as a natural, healthy alternative to white sugar.
Understanding their differences and health effects is especially important if you have diabetes.
This article explains whether brown sugar is better than white sugar if you have diabetes.
Similar nutrient profile
Because brown and white sugar are produced from either the sugar beet or sugarcane plant, they’re nearly identical nutritionally.
Brown sugar is usually made by adding molasses to refined white sugar, which gives it a darker color and supplies a small amount of vitamins and minerals.
Gram for gram, brown sugar is slightly lower in calories and carbs than white sugar.
As such, these differences are very minor and unlikely to affect your health.
Compared with brown sugar, white sugar is slightly higher in carbs and calories and slightly lower in nutrients. However, the nutritional differences are negligible.
Both increase blood sugar levels
On the glycemic index (GI), which measures to what extent certain foods increase blood sugar levels on a 0–100 scale, sucrose scores 65 (
This means that both brown and white sugar increase blood sugar levels as much as foods like french fries, sweet potatoes, and popcorn.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is incredibly important for people with diabetes. Moderating your intake of carb- and sugar-rich foods can support blood sugar control and minimize your long-term risk of diabetes complications (
Brown and white sugar are both composed of sucrose, which may spike blood sugar levels.
Should you choose one over the other?
If you have diabetes, brown sugar is no healthier than white sugar.
Keep in mind that any kind of added sugar should be limited as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. Excess sugar intake is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease (
Some research suggests that excess sugar also impairs insulin sensitivity, which refers to how responsive your body is to insulin. This hormone regulates your blood sugar levels.
Thus, people with diabetes should be especially careful with sugar intake (
The American Heart Association suggests limiting added sugars to under 6 teaspoons (25 grams, or 100 calories) per day for women and under 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams, or 150 calories) per day for men (10).
If you have diabetes, curbing your sugar intake as much as possible can improve your blood sugar control while promoting overall health. To develop an appropriate diet plan, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian.
Both brown and white sugar are considered added sugars, which are associated with decreased insulin sensitivity and a higher risk of several chronic conditions.
The bottom line
Despite slight differences in taste, brown and white sugar have a very similar nutrient profile and effect on blood sugar levels.
Therefore, brown sugar does not provide any benefits to people with diabetes.
Everyone — but especially people with this condition — should moderate their sugar intake for optimal health.