Is brown sugar good for diabetes
Nutrition

Is Brown Sugar Good for Diabetes

In India, the word diabetes is often used synonymously with ‘sugar’. Very often, instead of calling it diabetes, we end up calling the condition sugar. This is because sugar plays a magnanimous role in this disorder. Any imbalances in the sugar levels of the bloodstream can lead to significant damage and impairment to the different organs in the body.

Many people also believe that eating too much sugar causes diabetes. While that may not be completely true, there have been certain studies that have been linked with the onset of Type 2 Diabetes owing to an unhealthy lifestyle with excess sugar consumption. This, however, does not mean that eating a lot of sugar or sugary content is the only reason why diabetes occurs in certain individuals. There are a lot of mitigating factors that play a role in the onset of the condition.

The first thing, however, that an individual who is diagnosed with diabetes is asked to control is their intake of sugar. Several questions run through the mind of a newly diagnosed person and their family members– can people with diabetes eat brown sugar, will this have to be for life, what about honey, etc. These questions are natural and necessary and deserve to be answered by professionals to be able to help the individual and their families understand how to navigate through this tough condition.

Is Brown sugar good for diabetes?

Brown sugar is often considered to be the healthier alternative to white sugar – this is why many people wonder if brown sugar is good for diabetes. But is that really the case? There are several misconceptions about white and brown sugar. The major similarity between them is that they are produced from the same source. But they do have several aspects that make them unique as well.

Production – Both these sugars are grown in tropical climates in the form of sugarcane plants or sugar beet plants. The juice is extracted from these crops and is then purified and heated to form a brown syrup called molasses. Then, the crystallized form of sugar is used to produce sugar crystals which are separated from the molasses by a centrifuge. The white sugar is then further processed to remove the excess molasses. Brown sugar, on the other hand, is further processed where the molasses is added back to it.

Culinary differences – At times, these sugars can be used interchangeably. We see coffee shops in our cities keep sachets of both, brown and white sugar, to put in our beverages. However, for professionally cooked products, these sugars may create a difference in the color, texture, and even overall flavor of the final product. The brown sugar, owing to the molasses, will result in soft and dense baked products. White sugar would result in an airier texture. However, if the baked products are considering brown sugar diabetes type 2 and its potential benefits, there might not be any health-related benefits.

Glycemic index of brown sugar

Brown sugar and white sugar are both composed of sucrose. The glycemic index of the food provides a measure of the extent to which consuming certain foods would increase blood sugar levels. This range lies between 0-100. The glycemic index of brown sugar is 65 which is on the higher side. This would imply that having brown sugar would also lead to a rise in the glucose levels. 1 teaspoon or 4.6 grams of brown sugar is supposed to have 4.5 grams of carbs and 4.5 grams of sugar. This could lead to quite a spike in the levels.  All the calories in brown sugar also come from carbs. Since there is no fiber in brown sugar, the spike will be instant and rapid. Brown sugar for diabetics may not be a very good idea if it is consumed frequently and in excessive amounts. 

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Nutrient Profile

Both White and brown Sugar are produced from the same sugarcane crop which makes them similar in their properties. Brown sugar, however, is white sugar + molasses – which contributes to its darker color and increases its nutritional value. Higher levels of calcium, iron, and potassium are observed in brown sugar; however, the values are almost insignificant. Even calorie-wise, though brown sugar is known to have lesser calories, the difference does not amount to much.

While considering anything to eat for a person with diabetes, knowing its nutrition profile and how the ingredients may affect the body will make a huge difference in deciding whether or not it should be included in the diet plan. Similarly, many people do believe that brown sugar is a healthier alternative and can be used regularly as a substitute for white sugar. However, here is the nutrition profile of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of brown sugar (approximately 4.6 grams) would contain the following:

Nutritional value
Calories 17.5 grams
Fat 0 grams
Sodium 1.3mg
Carbohydrates 4.5 grams
Fiber 0 grams
Sugars 4.5 grams
Protein 0 grams
Sodium 3mg

All the calories present in brown sugar are obtained from carbohydrates, which means that it is all sugar implying a huge spike in the blood glucose levels within the body. The lack of fiber or protein in brown sugar will also mean that there is no slowing down in the rate of elevation of blood sugars.

Both increase blood sugar levels

The whole point of going off of sugar if you have been diagnosed with diabetes is that the consumption of sugar results in an immediate spike in the overall blood sugar levels in the body. One of the primary components in both these forms of sugars is sucrose. The glycemic index of sucrose is 65, on a scale from 1 to 100. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast the consumption of certain foods - sugar, in this case, would increase the blood sugar levels.

Just like French fries, sweet potato, and popcorn would result in an increase in blood sugar levels, brown sugar works the same.

If the consumption of brown sugar would not do anything to slow down the increase of blood sugars, it is considered to be unhealthy. Since an individual diagnosed with diabetes has to learn the effective management of glucose in the body, eating foods that would not help the cause would be ineffective. To avoid any long-term risks and complications of diabetes, it would be important to not consume sugar in any format.

In case there is a craving for sugar and something sweet, it would be best to indulge in any form of natural sugars like the ones present in fruits. Since these sugars have not been manufactured or processed artificially, they would not be harmful as they won’t result in spikes. Natural sugars are digested well and are absorbed by the body more slowly which means that they have a lower GI. Is brown sugar good for diabetes? No, but natural sugar is. Read about is jaggery good for diabetes

Difference between jaggery and brown sugar

While both are used as ingredients to add a certain level of sweetness to dishes, meals, beverages, etc, the ongoing debate between jaggery vs brown sugar seems never-ending. In the context of a person with diabetes, the hunt for a healthier alternative is a must.

 

  • Jaggery is made with a different process using a unique approach. It is, essentially, unrefined sugar that is made without spinning it in a centrifuge. Brown sugar, on the other hand, is also a form of refined sugar but it involves centrifuging.
  • Another major difference would be that jaggery can be considered a part of the vegan diet. Brown sugar, because it requires charcoal treatment that comes under the process of white sugar refinement, is not vegan.
  •  Jaggery is derived naturally from sugar cane or palm sap while the sugar crystals and molasses found in brown sugar come from sugar cane.
  • Jaggery is rarer and more expensive than brown sugar. Brown sugar has now made its way into several recipes and is used extensively even in coffee chains like Starbucks.
  •  Jaggery may not be as sweet as brown sugar and the colors can range among different shades of brown. Its counterpart, however, is consistent in its tone as it is technically white sugar blended with molasses.

Health benefits of brown sugar

Several studies and research are being conducted to figure out how brown sugar may play a role in overall health and well-being. For fitness freaks, people with diabetes, persons following a diet, or simply to lose weight, brown sugar may have some benefits as compared to white sugar.

  •  Weight loss – Since brown sugar has fewer calories as opposed to white sugar, it is better for consumption if you are on a weight loss diet. The molasses in brown sugar is also known to aid with a faster metabolism. Additionally, brown sugar also contains other micronutrients that can assist with weight loss.
  • Energy booster – If you are ever looking for instant energy in the form of glucose, brown sugar can be your go-to option. It is a simple carbohydrate that can break down into glucose. Therefore, it can be added to your food and beverages for energy.
  •  Helps with menstrual cramps – In some cultures and medicinal practices, brown sugar is used as a tried-and-tested home remedy to deal with menstrual cramps and relieve stomach pain. Use this by boiling some water and adding a teaspoon of brown sugar. Crush some ginger and tea leaves into the mix and drink to soothe the pain
  • Exfoliation – It can act as an exfoliating agent and can help smoothen the skin. You will notice changes in your skin as it gets rid of the dirt and tiny bumps on the skin.
  • Even though brown sugar benefits for diabetes may not be very prominently present, the other benefits that it has can certainly make it a good choice for consumption over white sugar.

Complications : White & Brown Sugar

You might have received your answer with the help of the above-mentioned points. Explicitly, no, there would be no benefit if you choose one sugar over the other if you are trying to limit your sugar intake due to diabetes. It is important to remember that sugars contain certain amounts of carbs and glucose, both of these are vital for a rounded and balanced diet. These sugars can be obtained with the help of any foods and vegetables that have natural sugars in them. Any form of added sugar – brown or white might only result in the deterioration of health.

Excess intake of sugar is harmful as it causes several complications:

  • Increase in the blood sugar levels and an overall higher Hba1c
  • Greater risk of heart diseases and other heart-related complications
  • The onset of Type 2 diabetes
  • Weight gain and obesity. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, this is something you need to be on the watch for.
  • Fatty liver disease, problems with kidney functioning, etc
  • Impairment in insulin sensitivity of the body, leading to higher insulin resistance.

Your search for the answer to the question “is brown sugar good for diabetes?” would yield an answer that even though this sugar has more minerals and nutritional qualities, they are not enough to cause any significant health benefits for someone who is trying to manage the symptoms of diabetes.

Bottomline

It is not easy to restrict your diet to a great extent once you know what sweet things taste like. When you talk about restricting sugars, you don’t only mean the consumption of raw sugar. It involves any kind of sweetened products, even baked goods, fruit juices, biscuits, cereals, etc. If you are looking for brown sugar to be a substitute for white sugar, it may not entirely be accurate and a healthy substitute as brown sugar has negligibly lower quantities of calories as compared to white sugar. This means that it is equally, if not more, unhealthy than white sugar. Only 5-10% of added sugar, brown or white, is advised for people with diabetes.

FAQs

1. Which sugar is better for type 2 diabetics?

Any type of sugar – white or brown will have a high glycemic index. This means that they may be harmful to a person with diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes need to maintain healthy control over their glucose levels. If possible, a person with type 2 diabetes should stick to Splenda or stevia which is a form of natural sugar that will not spike blood sugars or cause harm to the body. 

2. Which is better for a diabetic brown sugar or honey?

The pre and post-meal tests reveal no significant advantage when a person with diabetes switches to honey or brown sugar instead of sugar. The glycemic index of honey is 58 and the glycemic index of brown sugar is 64. This means that between the two, honey would be the better choice. However, it is not recommended for people with diabetes to consume a lot of honey either. 

3. What is the most healthy sugar?

Even though brown sugar does have a few more nutrients as opposed to white sugar, it is still not healthy enough for a person with diabetes. Therefore, switching to healthier alternatives like stevia in the form of leaves, drops, or powder would be a better choice instead of sugar of any kind.

4. Is brown sugar healthier than white sugar?

Though Brown sugar has a lesser calorie content, it cannot be said that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar. Brown sugar also has more minerals than white sugar however, the negligible quantity that we consume may not have a significant effect on the body. Overall, the sugar intake should be limited for maintaining optimal health conditions.

5. Can people with diabetes eat sugar?

Healthy diet is the main focus of diabetes nutrition. However, you can occasionally indulge in sweets without feeling bad or having a material impact on your ability to control your blood sugar. Modest eating is the secret to diabetes nutrition. People with diabetes should avoid the consumption of sugar as far as possible. The only time sugar needs to be taken would be during episodes of hypoglycemia wherein a person would need to consume calories to increase the body’s blood glucose levels. If you are eating sugar otherwise for any reason, ensure to check your sugar levels using a glucometer to bolus appropriately and avoid spikes.

6. Is molasses good for diabetics?

People with diabetes can consume molasses in very small amounts. Carbohydrates have a huge impact on overall blood sugar levels. In case you are consuming molasses, ensure that you are not having any more carbs in your meals and diet so that there is no unhealthy upping of sugar levels in the body. 

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