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Refined sugar or brown sugar; what are the differences?

White sugar, raw brown sugar, caster sugar. How do they differ? Which kind of sugar is healthier? Is sugar bad for you? The brown-colored types orefined sugarf sugar look more naturally due to their dark color, but are they healthier than white sugar?

The different kinds of sugar vary in purity, processing, shape, color, and (vegetable) origin. In Europe, sugar is mainly produced from sugar beets. In other parts of the world, manufacturers mainly use sugar cane to produce sugar. The chemical composition, however, is the same for both types: sucrose. It is a mixture of glucose and fructose. Both types of sugar (derived from sugar beets as well as and from sugar cane) consist 99.8% of sucrose.

Production of refined sugar from sugar beets

After sugar beets are harvested, washed and cut, the cuttings are soaked in warm water. This dissolves the sugar and the “non-sugar substances” into the water and creates a raw sugar juice. This juice gets purified and concentrated so that the sugar content of the substance increases from 16% to 67%. This concentrated mixture is getting reheated and boiled until the sugar crystals from the sugar syrup occur. Due to the presence of water and steam, the sugar crystals get of their white color. The result is a white granulated sugar. The left over product of the crystallization process is called molasses. Molasses often gets further processed, for example for the production of cake, rye bread, dark beer, rum, and soy sauce.

Refined sugar, white sugar, brown sugar and caster sugar

All types of sugar that have a brown color can be called brown sugar, including (raw) cane sugar, brown sugar and caster sugar. The different types of sugar vary in taste and production methods. From some varieties molasses is not removed, but completely dried and concentrated the whole juice. These kinds of sugar contain a slightly higher vitamin and mineral content than the most commonly used white sugar types. It are the minerals and vitamins in brown sugar that give the brown types of sugar their brown color. The “regular” brown sugar (brown caster sugar) is refined white sugar that does not contain caramelized molasses. In fact, brown caster sugar contains colored caramel syrup. The caramelization process does not give the sugar a higher vitamin and mineral content, only a (dark) brown color and a richer taste.

Is all sugar bad for you?

All sugar is bad for your health. White refined sugar or “regular” brown sugar, don’t contain any minerals and vitamins at all. Some types of ‘raw’ brown sugar contain some minerals and vitamins such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin B1, B2 and niacin. But the concentrations are so low that they don’t have any health benefits at all. In fact, during the digestion of sugar, your body uses all these vitamins and minerals to process the sugar.
Also in terms of energy content and tooth decay, there is no difference between the various types of sugar. Brown sugar is not a healthier alternative for white, refined sugar. Furthermore, not all brown colored sugar types contain more minerals. And raw brown sugar types that do contain some, have such low vitamin and mineral concentrations, that they don’t provide any health benefits. Additionally, all types of sugar, regardless of color, purity, processing or plant origin, have the same energy value. The reason for choosing to use brown or white refines sugar is solely a matter of taste. But even though sugar may taste good, your body is not happy with it.

Side effects of sugar

If you eat sugar, your body gets completely stressed out. During production process of sugar, all vitamins and minerals are extracted from the product. However, your body needs these nutrients badly in order to be able to digest sugar! So if you eat sugar, you literally ‘rob’ your body of essential nutrients! This may eventually lead to serious symptoms, which put your body out of balance. Daily consumption of sugar causes health problems (e.g. osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, infections, obesity, dental problems, anemia and cardiovascular diseases). Also, sugar creates an imbalance in the amount and activity of neurotransmitters (messenger substances of the brains). Thus, you can start to feel depressed if you eat sugar. Since sugar has a large addictive effect, the likelihood of depression is large. Eventually also concentration problems, inner restlessness and irritability may occur.

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