It’s well recognized that excessive sugar is bad for your health.
Nevertheless, there are countless forms of sugar and sugar alternatives available today.
No wonder confusion abounds around which one to choose.
Some people consider demerara sugar a healthier form of sugar, and it often pops up as an alternative to regular, white sugar.
This article explains whether demerara sugar is good or bad for you.
Demerara sugar is produced from sugarcane and consists of large grains which provide a nice, crunchy texture in baking.
It originates from Guyana (formerly Demerara) in South America. However, most demerara sugar available today comes from Mauritius in Africa.
It’s often used as sprinkles to decorate cakes and muffins but can also be added to tea and coffee.
It naturally contains a small amount of molasses, which gives it a light brown color and caramel flavor.
Summary Demerara sugar, made from sugarcane, is composed of large grains and is light brown in color due to its natural molasses content.
Some advocates of demerara sugar claim that it’s much healthier than white sugar.
Yet, there may be few health differences between them.
Undergoes Little Processing
Demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing.
The sugarcane is first pressed to extract sugarcane juice. It’s then boiled and eventually thickens into a syrup. Once the water has evaporated, it cools and hardens (1).
Demerara sugar retains some vitamins and minerals, whereas white sugar undergoes much more processing and is devoid of these nutrients (2).
Though demerara sugar undergoes much less processing than white sugar, it’s still considered an added sugar — a sugar that is no longer in its natural form.
Too much added sugar is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s important to consume demerara sugar only occasionally and in small amounts ().
Summary Demerara sugar is produced from pressed sugarcane and involves minimal processing. Nonetheless, it’s still an added sugar and should be consumed sparingly.
Contains Some Vitamins and Minerals
In general, the darker the color of demerara sugar, the higher the amount of molasses and minerals (5).
However, one study found that dark brown sugars such as demerara were a poor source of vitamins, so they may only make a small contribution to recommended dietary intakes (RDI) when consumed in small amounts (5).
With that in mind, you should refrain from eating large amounts of demerara sugar, as any benefits from the vitamins and minerals would be outweighed by the negative effects of surplus sugar.
Summary Demerara sugar contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron and B vitamins — but these amounts are not significant.
Made from Sucrose
White or regular sugar consists entirely of sucrose, which is made up of glucose and fructose bound together ().
Too much of these compounds are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The molasses contained in demerara sugar consists mostly of sucrose, but also single glucose and fructose molecules, traces of some vitamins and minerals, a little water and small amounts of plant compounds. The latter may have antimicrobial properties ().
Nevertheless, the main ingredient of both types of sugar is sucrose, which may have negative health effects.
Summary Demerara and white sugar both contain a large amount of sucrose, which is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Same Number of Calories as Regular Sugar
Demerara and regular white sugar are equal in calories.
They’re both made entirely of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. It’s estimated that every gram of carbs provides just under 4 calories.
Therefore, each teaspoon (4 grams) of either sugar has 15 calories (, ).
When it comes to calorie content, demerara sugar is not healthier than white sugar.
Furthermore, as it’s an added sugar, it should be consumed sparingly ().
Summary Demerara and white sugar both have 15 calories per teaspoon (4 grams). Therefore, substituting demerara for white sugar will not help you cut calories.
Affects Your Blood Sugars like Regular Sugar
Demerara and regular sugar have a similar effect on your blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index (GI) is used to rate carbohydrate foods based on their potential impact on blood sugars. Each food is compared to the glucose standard, which has a rating of 100.
Added sugars like demerara and white sugar increase the sweetness of food and make it more desirous. Unless you’re careful, you may end up eating a lot more of a given food that you had planned.
As a result, excessive sugar consumption may cause a spike in your blood sugars, which — if frequent — can lead to chronic diseases.
Summary Demerara and white sugar have the same effect on blood sugars. Both are sweeteners whose effect may encourage you to eat more food.
Demerara sugar is less processed than regular, white sugar and retains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Yet, both types are composed of sucrose, have equal calories and a similar effect on blood sugar levels.
Though demerara sugar may be slightly healthier it should still be used sparingly.