Sugar is considered an integral part of our life when it comes to food. After waking up in the morning we grab a cup of coffee/tea with sugar cubes or sugar and this process of sugar consumption continues entire day either by adding it in tea, milk, coffee or by consuming it indirectly through various food products such as ice creams, chocolates, cola drinks, packaged fruit juices and energy drinks. Let’s try to understand various sugar variants most of us are consuming in our day-to-day life:
Also called as Table Sugar, white sugar contains 99.9% sucrose (50% glucose + 50% fructose). It is manufactured by the processing and refining of natural sugars found in the sugar cane or sugar beet. Ash, Moisture, Minerals, and compounds that give sugar their color are completely removed.
Since one-teaspoon sugar contains 16 KCAL (no protein, no fat but only 4g carbohydrates), it is considered part of ‘Empty Calories’ food with no/limited nutrition values and hence no health benefits as such.
Brown sugar is produced either through less processing to retain its molasses content or by mixing completely refined white sugar with molasses. It contains 93.5% - 96.5% Sucrose and 3.5% – 6.5% Molasses. Due to presence of molasses, it appears brown (3.5% - light brown & 6.5% - dark brown) in color.
Any minerals present in brown sugar come from the molasses added to the white sugar. Brown sugar contains slightly fewer calories (12 KCAL per teaspoon) as compare to white sugar, 15% of the daily value of Iron (considering 100 gm reference amount), little amount of potassium, calcium, and magnesium but they are not present in great quantities. In summary, there is no significant difference between white and brown sugar from the nutrition perspective to give major health benefits.
Known as ‘Gur’ in Hindi, Jaggery production is a simple process comprising crushing of sugarcane to extract the juice, heating it to produce thick crystals and then solidifying to give the shape of the blocks.
Jaggery is considered a better choice as compare to white/brown sugar because, it contains a small amount of B vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Apart from these vitamins and minerals, 10 gm Jaggery provides 36 KCAL (minimal protein, no fat and 8.5g carbohydrates). Though Jaggery helps in blood purification, metabolism, nervous system, relief from cough & cold (taken with Honey and Ginger) and is considered as good cleansing agent (lungs, stomach, intestines, esophagus, and respiratory tracts) but it may lead to some harmful effects too if not consumed in moderation. These harmful effects include weight gain, increased blood sugar levels, indigestion, and nose bleeding due to heat production inside the body. Diabetic patient should avoid Jaggery considering high glycemic index value (84.1).
Honey is sugar-rich syrup stored by honeybees from a wide range of flowers. Honey contains 40% fructose, 30% glucose and 17% water. Apart from water, per 100g of Honey contains Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, Vitamin B, and Vitamin C. 1-teaspoon honey contains 20 calories (0 protein, 0 fat & 5 g carbs).
Honey is less processed as compared to sugar and it is only purified before distribution. Dueto higher fructose content honey tastes sweeter than sugar and small quantity of honey gives the same taste as 1 teaspoon sugar.
Honey provides many health benefits such as rich in antioxidants, ‘less bad’ than Sugar & Jaggery for Diabetes, lowers blood pressure, improves good cholesterol, lowers triglycerides and helps in suppressing cough and cold. At the same time, we should not forget that ultimately it’s high in calories and sugar, therefore, should be consumed in moderate amount only.
Let’s compare all these sweeteners:
Sugar (White/Brown) is considered part of ‘Empty Calories’ food with no/limited nutrition values and hence there are no major health benefits as such. Also, due to the high glycemic index (GI) and the minimal amount/absence of vitamins and minerals, it raises the blood sugar levels more quickly. Usually, Jaggery is not chemically processed like refined sugar, therefore, it’s always a better choice but Diabetic patient should avoid Jaggery considering high glycemic index value (84.1) to avoid raise in blood sugar levels. Honey is a healthier choice comparing to other sweeteners, as it is less processed with a low glycemic index (GI) and the presence of vitamins and minerals but moderation is the key. Avoid ice creams, chocolates, cola drinks, and packaged fruit juices completely as all these items contain too much sugar. Keep in mind that it is always recommended to limit your sugar intake to avoid health issues.