I've heard that before. The reasoning is, "White sugar is more 'processed' than brown sugar, so it's not as healthy." Is this true?

  • 6
    "processed" is another one of those words that doesn't have a specific meaning, but health-nuts will assume must be something bad. Isn't pasteurization also processing? Sure, but I wouldn't argue that made it less healthy.
    – JohnFx
    Jun 6, 2011 at 3:28
  • I've always assumed brown sugar was better for you as I have assumed it is not as concentrated as white sugar. Don't know if this is true or not, but either way I prefer the taste of brown sugar so i'm hoping it is the healthier option ;)
    – Ardesco
    Jun 6, 2011 at 11:10
  • Different definitions of brown sugar. A claim it isn't any healthier by a NY Times journalist (with a degree in psychology).
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 7, 2013 at 0:11
  • @JohnFx: Excellent point about "processed" being a silly word, however, your example of pasteurization is a bad one, as it, with few (if any) exceptions, does render the foodstuff less healthy--at least by some measure. When there is a battle between "food safety" (that is, avoiding pathogens in food) and nutritional content of food, pasteurization (and many other "processes") favor food safety, at the expense of nutrition. Which is healthier? It's debatable--but it is one clear example where the "process" clearly does reduce the health of the food by at least one metric.
    – Flimzy
    Jan 7, 2013 at 4:43

1 Answer 1


Brown sugar is often "more processed" than white sugar:

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. It is either an unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content, or it is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar. Brown sugar contains from 3.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar). The product is naturally moist from the hygroscopic nature of the molasses and is often labelled as "soft." The product may undergo processing to give a product that flows better for industrial handling. The addition of dyes and/or other chemicals may be permitted in some areas or for industrial products.

C&H has nasty things to say about brown sugar prepared by treating white beet sugar with molasses:

If cane sugar is not specified on the label, the sugar may be beet sugar. What beet sugar makers call "brown sugar" starts out as white sugar crystals that are then sprayed with a brown coating. Often the center of the crystal remains white and the brown molasses coating can be rubbed off in your hands. Not exactly what you want when you go to the effort of baking something fresh from scratch!

Brown sugar and white sugar are both crystallized products. Even in the unlikely circumstance that repeated crystallization removes some essential goodness from the products, you cannot point to one or the other and say with certainty which product has been crystallized more times. Sometimes it's the brown, sometimes it's the white.

  • 3
    Incidentally, you can make your own brown sugar by adding molasses to white sugar. joythebaker.com/blog/2010/08/how-to-make-brown-sugar
    – Martha F.
    Jun 6, 2011 at 19:25
  • 4
    I note that C&H provides no argument why white sugar coated with molasses is any worse than sugar that's brown the whole way through, but maybe you can taste the difference? I don't really think this answer addresses the question, which is whether brown sugar is healthier. Maybe it comes down to "Is molasses good for you?" Apr 2, 2012 at 19:39
  • 8
    This is not a good answer. It doesn't take a critical look at the claim, and it doesn't address the root question.
    – Catskul
    Nov 26, 2012 at 1:01

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