White Sugar, Raw Sugar, Brown Sugar And Honey: Which Is Best?

[white sugar vs raw sugar]In nutrition, sugar is the common term for simple carbohydrates, structured with only one or two basic carb units such as glucose, fructose, and galactose.

But consumers often use "sugar" to describe everything that tastes sweet. But in fact, not all sugars are sweet and not all sugary is sugar.

There are many different types of sugar we add to our food or drink every day such as white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, and honey. But when we look at a packaged product, the list of sugars will be even longer: corn syrup, palm sugar, molasses, maple syrup, agave, etc.

Although there are many types of sugar, they are often very nutritionally similar. Sugar is mainly glucose, fructose, and sucrose, the basic forms of sugar. Glucose and fructose have slightly different chemical structures, while sucrose is a double sugar composed of a glucose molecule paired with a fructose molecule.

To distinguish sugars, we often rely on their sources (from sugarcane, sugar beets, fruit, nectar, palm or coconut), flavor or level of processing.

Types of sugar

White sugar: also called table sugar, is the final product of processing and refining sugarcane or sugar beets. In the purification process, people remove water, minerals, and colored compounds to get refined sugar. The byproduct of the compounds that are removed during the refining process of sugar is called molasses, which is also a type of sugar.

Raw sugar: undergoes almost all processing stages like white sugar, except for the final refining step.

Brown sugar is white refined sugar with a proportion of molasses. Raw sugar, brown sugar and molasses contain higher coloration ingredients, either from natural sources or byproducts due to the breakdown of sugar (caramel) during sugarcane processing.

Honey: A honey of sugar-rich flowers gathered by bees. Fructose is the main sugar found in honey, followed by glucose and sucrose. The sweet taste of honey is thought to be due to its higher fructose content, and fructose sweeter than glucose or sucrose. Honey contains about 17% water.

Syrup juice: can be produced from a variety of plant sources in the form of wax and fruit. Some examples include agave, corn, dates, grapes, maple, and pomegranates.

Because agave and corn are more complex carbohydrates, they are broken down into sugar during food processing, before being concentrated into a syrup. Corn syrup is usually processed into a super sweet form, called high fructose corn syrup.

Fruit sugar: can be made from dried fruits such as dates. The sugars produced through this process share the same nutritional profile as the fruit (which retains fiber and minerals) but lower the water content.

Which type of sugar is best?

Several studies have reported side effects of white sugar and high fructose corn syrup on human health. So, what should we replace these sugars with?

Sweetness and sugar content

Some sugars like honey and Agave syrup are higher in fructose. Fructose is sweeter than glucose and sucrose. Therefore, if you replace white sugar with honey and Agave syrup you would only need to use a smaller amount to achieve the same sweetness. However, because honey and syrup have higher water content. So the sugar content in it turns out to be less than the equivalent weight of white sugar.


Depending on the level of processing and refining, sugars retain different amounts of minerals and compounds. These compounds have antioxidant capabilities, reducing cellular damage in the body causing a number of chronic diseases. In the white sugar, they are all removed.

Although the antioxidant content of dates and molasses is many times higher than white sugar and corn syrup, it is still relatively low compared to other antioxidant-rich foods. For example, you need to drink more than 500g of dates or molasses to have the same amount of antioxidants in a cup (145g) of blueberries.

Glycemic index

Different types of sugar raise blood sugar levels at different levels after eating or drinking. The concept of the glycemic index (GI) is used to compare the ability to increase blood sugar levels of carbohydrate-containing foods after about two hours.

Pure glucose is used as a reference carbohydrate and it has a GI value of 100. Higher GI indicates that foods have the ability to raise blood sugar faster, thus, being less healthy. High GI foods tend to be addictive and fast hungry.

The GI values ​​in the table below are compiled from the GI database. Corn syrup has the highest GI, as it contains mainly glucose. White sugar, composed of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, has a slightly lower GI. Based on the values ​​available in the GI database, agave syrup has the lowest GI value. Therefore, it is a better option than other sugars to manage blood sugar.

Antibacterial properties

Honey has been reported to have the ability to kill many germs, due to the presence of some natural compounds capable of doing so. However, we still do not know how to collect and create antibacterial properties similar to honey for other sugars.

In the end, the sugar that enters our bodies is still the way. So while honey, raw sugar, dates, and molasses are "better" than white sugar and other sugars, everyone should try to reduce their sugar intake.


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