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Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?

author image Courtney Winston
Dr. Courtney Winston is a registered/licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator and public health educator. She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her doctoral degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Winston was recognized in 2012 with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Emerging Leader in Dietetics Award for the state of California.
Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar can have a large effect on glucose levels. Photo Credit YelenaYemchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Although many people associate brown foods with health and nutrition, brown sugar shouldn't be considered a healthy alternative to other sweeteners. By weight, its caloric and carbohydrate values are slightly less than white granulated sugar, but brown sugar still can have a significant effect on your blood glucose levels. Eating too much of it can easily cause high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and diabetics must avoid hyperglycemia episodes as much as possible.

Why It's Brown

Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar isn't any more natural than white sugar. Photo Credit StephanieFrey/iStock/Getty Images

People usually think of brown-colored foods as being more natural and more whole grain, and while you might consider brown sugar to be more natural than other sugars, it certainly does not get its coloration from whole grains. Instead, brown sugar’s coloration comes from the molasses added during processing in different quantities to give it its unique taste and cooking properties. Brown sugar is just as refined as granulated sugar.

What's in It

Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar has a higher moisture content than white granulated sugar. Photo Credit Magone/iStock/Getty Images

Because of the added molasses, brown sugar has a slightly higher moisture content than white granulated sugar. The presence of moisture gives brown sugar a unique texture, and the moisture does help to lower brown sugar’s calorie and carbohydrate content. Nonetheless, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar still contains about 52 calories and 14 grams of carbohydrate, essentially the same as granulated white sugar.

Watch Your Portions

Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
Brown sugar is high in carbohydrates so be careful when adding it to foods like oatmeal. Photo Credit Mark Stout/iStock/Getty Images

As with any other carbohydrate, you should carefully measure and moderate your intake of brown sugar. When you eat brown sugar, carefully measure it out, and do not forget to count the carbohydrates. As with other sweet foods, it is very easy to eat too much brown sugar, especially when you are adding it to other foods. For example, 1 cup of cooked oatmeal at breakfast has 25 grams of carbohydrates. By adding 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to that bowl of oatmeal, you've more than doubled your total carbohydrates.


Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
There are diabetic-friendly substitutes. Photo Credit IngridHS/iStock/Getty Images

You can find brown sugar alternatives that serve as a more diabetic-friendly substitute for regular brown sugar because they are lower in calories and carbohydrates. Most of these blends still contain some calories and carbohydrates, however, and even these blends can adversely affect your blood sugar if you are not careful.

Nutitional Benefits

Can Diabetics Eat Brown Sugar?
There aren't any large scale scientific results supporting the idea that brown sugar is more nutritious than white sugar. Photo Credit S847/iStock/Getty Images

To date, there are no large-scale scientific results supporting the notion that brown sugar is more nutritious than granulated sugar. Although molasses does contain some minerals, the amount of molasses added to brown sugar is not enough to constitute a nutritional benefit.

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