Is Muscovado Sugar Healthy?

The sweet truth about sugars will surprise you

Is muscovado sugar healthy? Sweet, delicious and hard to resist sugars come in all sorts of forms and flavors. There is white sugar, muscovado sugar, cane sugar, demerara sugar, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar and more. Which sugar is the best choice? At times the popular media touts one sugar as being healthier than the others, such as muscovado sugar. Is muscovado sugar healthy? Let’s measure out these sugars and weight out their benefits.

Is Muscovado sugar healthier than other sugars?

Muscovado sugar appears to be the new "healthy" sugar, but is it really? How does it compare with white sugar, cane sugar and coconut sugar?

What is muscovado sugar?

Muscovado sugar, also known as Barbados sugar, is a partially refined cane sugar. Muscovado sugar has a dark brown colour and a strong molasses flavour making it a popular bakers’ choice for gingerbread cookies. Muscovado sugar is stickier and slightly coarser than other partially refined brown sugars such as turbinado and dermerara sugar. Of note, these partially refined brown sugars are not the same as the so-called brown sugar commonly found in supermarkets. Supermarket brown sugar is actually highly refined white sugar that’s had molasses added to it to make it appear brown.

What is the best form of sugar?

“You may be surprised to hear that we don’t feel any different about any of these sugars,” notes Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa.  Sifting through the sweet messages about different types of sugars can be challenging and confusing. Perhaps you are left wondering, what is the best form of sugar? It’s all sugar. Regardless of where it comes from, or how it is made, all forms of sugar behave the same in the body. Gomer has an easy rule to help avoid getting stuck in the syrupy messages that exist about sugars on the internet, “If weight loss is your goal, sugar should not appear in the first 5 ingredients of a food. If health is your goal it should not appear within the first 3 ingredients.”

Is muscavado healthier than white sugar?

The main difference between muscovado sugar and white sugar is they are made from two different sources. Muscavado sugar is a type of cane sugar. Raw cane sugar (muscovado, dermerara, turbinado) is partially processed so it retains high proportions of molasses. As such, it has an intense almost burnt taste. Unrefined canes sugar is called sucanat. Alternatively, white sugar is made from sugar beets. White sugar is refined. The process of converting sugar beets into white sugar can include the use of chemical flocculents, animal bone char and bleaches. The processing creates small crystals of pure white sucrose.

Both cane sugar and refined white sugar are types of sugar which are high in calories and cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Deceivingly, you will find muscovado sugar, along with demerara and turbinado sugar in the natural food section of stores. They are located there because they are less processed than refined white sugar. It is important to remember that if it is called sugar, it is a sugar and will react in your body as sugar does.

Yet, natural does not always mean healthier. All sugar is high in calories, low in fiber and absorb quickly to spike your blood sugar levels. These natural sugars may be a better choice. However, they are all sugar and, as with all sugars and should be consumed sparingly.

Is raw sugar better for you than refined sugar?

Sugar is sugar. Raw sugar isn’t actually ‘raw’; it has been refined and heated. Raw sugar is processed to remove some naturally occurring molasses, but still contains some. Refined sugar goes through significant processing and contains no natural molasses.

Is maple syrup as bad as sugar?

Both maple syrup and honey contain high amounts of sugar. As these are naturally occurring liquids, some websites tout these are healthier forms of sugar: maple syrup contains very small amounts of a few vitamins, phenolic compounds, organic acids and amino acids; and honey has been scientifically proven to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. However, maple syrup and honey should be regarded as sugar, particularly by those trying to manage blood sugar levels or achieve weight loss goals.

How bad is sugar for you?

Is sugar bad for you? Yes. There is evidence that eating too much sugar promotes the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Consuming foods that have added sugars is also linked with fatty liver, insulin resistance and hyperuricemia.

Artificial sweeteners

The research is not clear whether artificial sweeteners effect insulin levels, or whether the use of them influences cravings for sugar. “We don’t recommend them, but we do allow the use of Splenda and stevia, with the use of no more than 5 packets per day,” says Gomer.

All sugars are not created equally. However, no matter what it is called, or how it is processed, all forms of sugar cause an increase in your blood sugar level. Reducing all forms of sugar in your diet is linked to healthy benefits and may lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Eating a healthy, whole food, low-calorie-dense diet like the Pritikin Eating Plan is a scientifically proven way to prevent and control type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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