Once beets have their sugar soaked out of them and it's refined to white crystals of sucrose, beet sugar is just like cane sugar, even for diabetics. It offers about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon and essentially nothing else, nutritive or otherwise. A methodological test published in 2006 did find that beet sugar had a carbon-isotope signature similar to those of fruit juice, vegetables, and most plant-derived foods, but distinct from those of sugar-cane and corn products. The distinction was proposed only as a marker to allow tracking of foods in human diets.
Identifying Beet Sugar
Only 0.05 percent of beet sugar or cane sugar is anything but sucrose, and commercial granulated sugar may not be labeled as to which is its source. For strict vegetarians, beet sugar may be preferred because of the animal byproducts used in processing cane sugar.
Beets to Eat
The beet species that are grown for industrial sugar production have been highly developed to maximize their sucrose content. Beets sold for direct consumption, however, offer diabetics a high-value nutrition package. A serving of 3 oz. of sliced beets contains more than twice the carbs of that teaspoon of beet sugar, but almost 2 grams of that is fiber. Sliced beets also have 1.43 grams of protein.
Fiber is Key
The high fiber content of fresh beets makes them a high-value food for diabetics, despite their sugar content. Cooked beets do not generally mash well, but roasted simply in their skins and peeled easily, they can be sliced or julienned as a side dish or added to stews and salads.
Eat Almost All
Buy fresh beets with the leaves attached, since the greens are an even better source of fiber, almost all of the 1.6 grams of carbohydrates in a cup of greens. The purple of the root usually extends up the fully edible stem, giving any dish of beet greens an attractive mix of colors.
- Sugar.org: How We Get Sugar
- Livestrong.com MyPlate: Beet Sugar
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "An Isotopic Method for Quantifying Sweeteners Derived from Corn and Sugar Cane; A. Hope Jahren, et al.; December 2006
- The Cook's Thesaurus: Sugar
- Livestrong.com MyPlate: Beets
- Livestrong.com MyPlate: Beet Greens