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Myth: Brown sugar and honey are better than white sugar (which is still better than high fructose corn syrup).

TRUTH:Sugar is sugar is sugar.  Honey is sugar.  Maple syrup is sugar.  It’s all sugar.  Brown sugar contains molasses (which makes it brown but it’s from the same sugar cane as white sugar); honey is made by bees from nectar; maple syrup is sugar with some maple flavoring from the tree that produces it; high fructose corn syrup is sugar made from refined corn; and white sugar is refined from the sugar cane plant.  It’s all just sugar.

Brown Sugar, Honey, and Maple Syrup


Another word for the sugar in our food is carbohydrate.  Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar or honey contain few nutrients other than sugar for energy.  Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables have vitamins, minerals, and (in some cases) protein or unsaturated fat.  As processed foods (with added sugar) have become more widely available, Americans have been eating more sugar, which has led to excessive calories, which leads to weight gain.

BOTTOM LINE:  Research indicates that honey contains antioxidants, but as far as the sugar content is concerned, all sugars are comprable.  Eat an appropriate number of calories from a variety of sources.  Simple sugar is not harmful but should be consumed in moderation.  Use white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and syrup, sparingly.  Choose complex carbohydrates over processed foods or baked goods. 


Okalahoma State University Extension:

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4 Comments to "Myth: Brown sugar and honey are better than white sugar (which is still better than high fructose corn syrup)."

  1. JohnD says:

    Hey Kate, what do you think about the Agave craze in comparison? It’s becoming very popular in health food stores but I’m now hearing that often it’s very processed and may be no better for you then High Fructose Corn Syrup, so perhaps even worse then plain white sugar.

    • ktgard says:

      Hey John — thanks for your question! Agave is used by our bodies like sugar (it’s caloric). Since it’s sweeter than sugar (about 1.5 times sweeter), you can use less to get the same level of sweetness. Some people like that it’s hyped as more ‘natural’ than sugar but it’s processed to extract the nectar just as sugar cane is processed to derive table sugar. Basically, if you like it, use it — in moderation (as with any sugar).

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Thanks for sharing, Stephen! I did happen upon that article this morning. While I agree with many of his points (i.e. the overconsumption of sugar has contributed to the increased prevlanace of obesity), I think ‘toxic’ is too strong a word to use for processed sugar. The thing is, even complex carbs breakdown into the same type of sugar molecules as simple sugars, so to say it’s toxic or poisionous is way too extreme.

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