is brown sugar good for diabetes

Is brown sugar good for diabetes?

The question “is brown sugar good for diabetes” is on the lips of many who have diabetes. But is it really good or is it any better than white sugar for diabetics?

The quick answer is no. Brown sugar poses the same risk as white sugar to diabetics, hence everyone living with diabetes should be mindful of how much brown sugar they consume.

Brown and white sugar have a lot of misconceptions about them. Brown sugar is sometimes advertised as a natural, healthier alternative to white sugar, despite the fact that they come from the same sources.

If you have diabetes, this article will explain why brown sugar may be preferable or not to white sugar.

Let’s start by taking a look at what diabetes is and then focus on the use of brown sugar in people living with diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that results in too much sugar in the blood (high blood glucose).

When your blood sugar rises, your pancreas receives a signal to release insulin. Insulin allows the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it means your body cannot make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin to its maximum capacity.

When there is not enough insulin, blood sugar accumulates in your bloodstream and with time can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

A cure for diabetes is not available at the moment but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can help manage this condition. A person diagnosed with diabetes is called a diabetic.

Types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a type of diabetes known for requiring a daily dose of insulin. It is usually caused as a result of insufficient insulin production in the body. This type of diabetes can cause too much excretion of urine, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue.

Type 2 diabetes

This type of diabetes results from the body’s inadequate use of insulin. Excess body weight (obesity) and physical inactivity can be caused by this type of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes

A type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. It can happen at any stage of pregnancy but is more common in the second or third trimester.

Pregnant women or women with gestational diabetes face an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. These women and their children are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

What is brown sugar?

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with molasses that gives it a characteristic brown hue. It’s either an unprocessed or partially refined soft sugar made from sugar crystals containing some residual molasses (natural brown sugar), or it’s made by mixing molasses with refined white sugar (commercial brown sugar).

The glycemic index of brown sugar

Glycemic index is a tool used to measure the increase in blood sugar levels. This tool assigns numbers (on a scale of 0 to 100) to foods based on how slowly or quickly those foods can cause increases in blood sugar levels.

The foods are then classified into low, medium, and high glycemic foods. The lower the glycemic index of a food, the lower the chances of the food affecting your blood sugar levels.

Also, the higher the glycemic index of a food, the greater the chances of the food affecting your blood sugar levels.

Below is the classification of the glycemic index

  • Low: 0 to 55
  • Medium: 56 to 69
  • High: 70 to 100

Brown sugar has a glycemic index of 65. This places brown sugar in the medium category of the glycemic index. This makes brown sugar somehow safe for consumption by diabetics however in controlled amounts. 

The glycemic load of brown sugar 

A glycemic load is a tool used to measure the amount of carbohydrates in a portion of food together with how quickly it increases blood glucose levels.

It is very helpful to people with diabetes. This tool helps them to assess which quantities of foods are most suitable for maintaining good blood glucose levels.

The classification of glycemic load is as follows:

  • Low: 0 to 10
  • Medium: 11 to 19
  • High: 20 and above

Brown sugar has a glycemic load of 6. This places brown sugar in the low category of the glycemic load. This also makes br0own sugar a little safer for consumption. However, the quantity you take should be moderated. 

Types of sugar found in brown sugar

This is another important factor to consider when determining if brown sugar is good for people with diabetes.

Knowing the type of sugar found in brown sugar is very important because it helps you know if the body will require either a long or short period to break down the sugar in the food.

Sugars that need a long time to break down in the body ensure that there is a slow release of sugar into the bloodstream. This helps to guarantee that your blood sugar levels are steady for a long time.

Complex sugars are the type that requires a long time to break down. Simple sugars on the other hand usually break down quickly in the body and hence may contribute to a sharp increase in blood sugar level which is not a good thing for diabetics.

Sucrose is the type of sugar found in brown sugar. Sucrose is made up of simple sugars (glucose and fructose). As such unlike complex sugars like fiber, these sugars usually break down quickly in the body.

Does the type of sugar found in brown sugar contribute to an increase in blood sugar?

Sucrose, or table sugar, makes up the majority of brown and white sugar. Sucrose gets a 65 on the glycemic index (GI), which assesses how much various meals raise blood sugar levels on a scale of 0 to 100.

Also, sucrose in brown sugar contains fructose and glucose which quickly break down in the body. Hence, brown sugar may contribute to an increase in blood sugar, especially when taken in large quantities.

Meals like French fries, sweet potatoes, and popcorn can raise blood sugar levels just as much as brown sugar.

Can brown sugar increase the level of blood sugar in the body?

With the presence of sugars like sucrose, brown sugar has the potential to increase blood sugar levels. Monitoring your intake of brown sugar can keep your blood sugar levels in check. 

What is the difference between brown sugar and white sugar?

The main differences between brown sugar and white sugar are the taste and texture. Brown sugar gets its color from the addition of molasses (a substance resulting from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar).

The addition of molasses during processing and the cooking procedures also adds moisture to the brown sugar. The sugar has a distinct texture because of the moisture.

In simple terms, brown and white sugar are almost the same thing except for the color and taste that differentiate them. 

Should I take brown sugar instead of white sugar?

Brown sugar is no better than white sugar if you have diabetes. Take note that any additional sugar should be used in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet.

A higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease is linked to a high sugar intake.

The takeaway from this article 

Brown and white sugar have very identical nutritional profiles and effects on blood sugar levels, despite minor taste variances. Brown sugar can be consumed safely by those with diabetes if consumed in moderation.


Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for and a writer for Wapomu

Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.

His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.

He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.

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