White sugar, brown sugar, muscovado… Who doesn’t like the sweet taste you get from tasting these ingredients? Well, it is not a sin to confess that most of us love it. The fact is that when we taste it, our brain releases high doses of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which produces pleasure and relaxation.
Therefore, when this substance is absent, a state of depression can be produced. This does not mean that it can be taken in excess because the abundant consumption of sugar is harmful to health. It can be included in the diet, but in minimal quantities. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an intake of 5% of total calories from sugar for adults. This is equivalent to about 25 grams per day.
However, it must be considered that this ingredient is also hidden in processed foods, such as jams, candies, drinks, among others. In addition, regardless of its presentation, it is sucrose with some differences in color and flavor.
In order to understand the differences or similarities between the types of sugar, we must understand the origin of this natural sweetener. The manufacturing process is based on sugar cane or sugar beet juice. This is clarified and evaporated until a syrup or molasses is obtained.
From this product, crystals are formed. However, depending on their degree of processing or refining, they can be white, brown or mascot. Are there differences between these sweeteners?
What is white sugar?
Generally, sugar is known as sucrose, since this carbohydrate is present in almost 100% of the product.
Sucrose is formed by the union of two very simple molecules such as glucose and fructose. It is also the most widely used natural sweetener in the world and the most important from an economic point of view. When we talk about white sugar we refer to obtaining refined sucrose crystals from molasses.
This pre-product is purified and subjected to rigorous cleaning to eliminate all impurities. That is why it is also known as “refined”. The taste is sweet, with a neutral odor and has a purity of 99% of sucrose.
White sugar is subjected to a refining process that eliminates all impurities. It is composed almost 100% of sucrose.
What is brown sugar?
Brown sugar can be either whole or refined. The latter is obtained by adding molasses to the refined product to provide a different color and flavor. In short, it is the color that changes from refined to brown. The sucrose content is the same. According to the amount of molasses added it will be more or less dark.
However, there is another type of brown sugar that corresponds to the so-called integral sugar. This is semi-refined, with yellow crystals and thick grains. It is obtained by a partial separation of water from molasses and impurities, through a process known as centrifugation. Its sucrose content is 95%.
What is muscovado sugar?
The muscovado sugar, has its origin in the 17th century, and in Portuguese the term was used to indicate the worst quality sugar. However, far from this denomination, it is considered integral, obtained by traditional methods, but without the process of centrifugation or separation of molasses.
Molasses crystallizes very slowly and is then granulated and marketed as such. It is also known as “raw sugar” and contains 97% sucrose, with a little more water than refined sugar.
Main differences between white, brown and muscovado sugar
To better understand the differences between the 3 types of products, we must start from the similarities. Firstly, they are obtained from the same raw material, i.e. sugar cane or sugar beet. In addition, the main by-product in all three cases is molasses and the sucrose content is similar between them. It varies between 95 % and 99 %. Therefore, the amounts of calories they provide are almost the same. One spoonful provides approximately 60 calories, so how do they differ? The answer is very simple. They vary in how molasses is processed and therefore in its flavor and color.
If there is nothing left, it is white sugar.
The amount of molasses added to the crystals allows it to be classified as brown; it has a sticky and caked texture with a soft caramel flavor.
If the molasses is not extracted from the sucrose crystals, it is obtained as muscovado sugar. It is only evaporated and crystallized before granulation. This allows a higher content of water and natural minerals in the cane, such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Its color is much darker and the flavor is more intense than that of brown sugar.
What is there to remember about these types of sugar?
The differences between these 3 types of sugar make it clear that there is no one better than the other. They all provide almost the same amount of sucrose and calories, with only negligible variations between them.
The amount of minerals present in brown or muscovado sugar does not provide an important nutritional value for the diet. Therefore, in our diet plan we must regulate its consumption, whatever its type, if we want to lead a healthier lifestyle.