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Brown sugar vs Honey - Health, Nutrition and Baking Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Brown sugar
vs
Honey

Summary

Brown sugar contains higher amounts of carbohydrates, sugars, and calcium. On the other hand, honey is richer in vitamin C and manganese relatively. Honey has a lower glycemic index and calorie count. Both brown sugar and honey have negligible amounts of fats and proteins.

Introduction

Brown sugar can be natural brown or dyed brown. The natural brown sugar came from crystallized sugarcane juices and turned into sugars with minor refining methods. Dyed brown sugar, usually marketed as "brown sugar," is white refined sugar with added sugarcane molasses or beetroot molasses. If it's specified as "natural brown sugar". It means it's the one that directly comes from processing sugar cane juice without adding additional molasses. Sugar is a vegetable byproduct.

Honey, on the other hand, is harvested from beehives. They are animal byproducts. This information is necessary for people who follow vegan diets. Honey comes from the processing of bees of flower nectars and is collected in beehives. Honey has an interesting property as it doesn't spoil; microorganisms cannot grow on honey.

Based on archeological remains, it is believed that they used to collect honey in Spain in around 6000BC.

This article will discuss the nutritional content, vitamin content, mineral content, health impacts, and variations and usages of both brown sugar and honey.

Nutritional content comparison

The nutritional content compared between both brown sugar and honey is considered per 100g. In this section, the glycemic index, calories, carbohydrate, sugar, protein, and fat contents of both are compared.

Glycemic index

Brown sugar has a glycemic index of 65, which is considered a medium glycemic index food. On the other hand, honey has a glycemic index of 55, which is considered a low glycemic index food.

Honey has a lower glycemic index compared to brown sugar.

Calories

Brown sugar contains 380 calories, whereas honey contains 304 calories (per 100g). Although both values are close, honey contains fewer calories compared to brown sugar.

Carbohydrates / Sugars

Both brown sugar and honey are mostly carbohydrates; as a matter of fact, 100g of brown sugar contains 98.1g of carbohydrates, of which 97g are sugars. On the other hand, honey is made of 82.4g of carbohydrates, of which 84.1g are sugars.

Both are high in carbohydrates, given that they are mostly sugars; however, brown sugar is higher in both carbohydrates and sugar.

Proteins

The protein content of both brown sugar and honey is negligible.

Fat

The fat content of both brown sugar and honey is negligible.

Vitamin content comparison

Brown sugar is mainly deprived of vitamins, although we can measure trace amounts of the vitamin B complex. However, this amount is close to negligible.

Honey, on the other hand, has 0.5mg of vitamin C per 100g. Relative to the quantity consumed, this amount of vitamin C is not very remarkable but also not negligible.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
4
Honey
Contains more Vitamin B5 +94.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +70.8%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +∞%
Contains more Folate +100%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 0.121
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 8% 10% 1% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 9% 3% 5% 6% 2% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +94.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +70.8%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +∞%
Contains more Folate +100%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 0.121

Mineral content comparison

Brown sugar contains 83mg of calcium, and the daily requirement for calcium is on average 1000mg. Brown sugar also contains some amounts of manganese, iron, and potassium.

Honey contains more manganese compared to brown sugar. However, both these amounts are not remarkable. Honey has negligible amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and other minerals included.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Calcium +1283.3%
Contains more Iron +69%
Contains more Magnesium +350%
Contains more Potassium +155.8%
Contains more Copper +30.6%
Contains less Sodium -85.7%
Contains more Zinc +633.3%
Equal in Phosphorus - 4
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 25% 27% 7% 2% 12% 4% 1% 16%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 2% 16% 2% 2% 5% 1% 6% 12%
Contains more Calcium +1283.3%
Contains more Iron +69%
Contains more Magnesium +350%
Contains more Potassium +155.8%
Contains more Copper +30.6%
Contains less Sodium -85.7%
Contains more Zinc +633.3%
Equal in Phosphorus - 4

Health impacts

Diabetes

Brown sugar is composed of pure carbohydrates, mainly sugars, which are the main factor in increasing blood sugar levels. Therefore, during diabetes, it is best to avoid it.

Honey in moderate amounts has proven to provide glycemic control and protection against diabetes complications on the body organs in patients suffering from diabetes type 2. (1)

A study showed that mixing low amounts of honey with metformin, the most prescribed drug for diabetes has enhanced its effects. (2)

These are due to active compounds present in honey; however, the amount of sugar causes an increase in blood sugar levels. This is why lower amounts of honey are recommended so that the sugar levels do not exceed red mark levels.

Hypertension

High intake of sugars, including brown sugar, results in blood hypertension if uncontrolled and mostly if other chronic diseases are associated, like diabetes and other metabolic disorders. (3)

On the other hand, honey has proven that, if consumed in low to moderate amounts lowers the risks of developing hypertension. This is due to the antioxidants present in honey that balance all physiological aspects of the body that, if malfunctioning, ends up causing hypertension. Acting as a housekeeping agent in the body. (4)

Obesity

Consumption of high sugars, including brown sugar, increases the risk of obesity. The increase in the risk is mainly due to developing leptin resistance, which is resistance to the hunger hormone. Thus making the individual more hungry and feel full less often.

Honey is proven to reduce obesity and fat deposition risks when used as an alternative to sugars. (6)

Addiction

Brown sugar has proven to develop a specific dependency on humans. This was observed on the neurologic levels. To call this behavior addiction has yet to be labeled in the field of science. However, data aggregates and leans over the definition of addiction when it comes to sugar. (7)

Addiction can be debated when it comes to honey, mainly due to its sugar content. However, honey is not as frequently used in the culinary world as much as sugars are.

Variations and usage

Brown sugar varies in taste compared to white sugar by simply having a boost in flavor due to the molasses that it contains.

Both good and bad honey exists in the markets; however, both are honey, but a difference exists. This difference comes from the initial source, which is beekeeping. During winter times, flowers are not available for bees to feed on. To keep bees alive, the beekeeper feeds the bees sugar dissolved in water. During spring and summertime, bees carry on normal honey making and use flower nectars for honey-making, filled with various flavors. The honey produced from sugar dissolved in water will be sold for cheaper in markets and labeled as "bad honey." This is the main difference between them. It is recommended to consume the spring product honey as it is the healthiest and filled with aromas and flavors.

Baking

Brown sugar for baking

Brown sugar has an essential feature while used in baking. It contains molasses, which is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs water compared to classical baking ingredients like white sugar. This additional property of brown sugar, which is best used for cookies, makes them chewier and less dry.

Honey for baking

We can use honey for baking as it contains enzymes that affect flavors. However, We must lower the baking temperature because, at high temperatures, honey gives a bitter taste. Fruity and spicy flavors will be more exposed as they will be aromatized and extracted.

For baking, brown sugar and honey have advantages in the different baking methods we can use. Brown sugar would be suitable for preparing cookies as it would make them chewier and less dry, in comparison to honey which would be suitable for making cakes and pies. It would give more aroma and flavoring to the cake and pie.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817209/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399220/
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.167429
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6115915/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959843/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17995819/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Brown sugar vs Honey infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Brown sugar Honey
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in Saturated Fat Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Brown sugar Honey Opinion
Net carbs 98.09g 82.2g Brown sugar
Protein 0.12g 0.3g Honey
Fats 0g 0g
Carbs 98.09g 82.4g Brown sugar
Calories 380kcal 304kcal Brown sugar
Starch g g
Fructose 1.11g 40.94g Honey
Sugar 97.02g 82.12g Honey
Fiber 0g 0.2g Honey
Calcium 83mg 6mg Brown sugar
Iron 0.71mg 0.42mg Brown sugar
Magnesium 9mg 2mg Brown sugar
Phosphorus 4mg 4mg
Potassium 133mg 52mg Brown sugar
Sodium 28mg 4mg Honey
Zinc 0.03mg 0.22mg Honey
Copper 0.047mg 0.036mg Brown sugar
Vitamin A 0IU 0IU
Vitamin E 0mg 0mg
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0mg 0.5mg Honey
Vitamin B1 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B2 0mg 0.038mg Honey
Vitamin B3 0.11mg 0.121mg Honey
Vitamin B5 0.132mg 0.068mg Brown sugar
Vitamin B6 0.041mg 0.024mg Brown sugar
Folate 1µg 2µg Honey
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan mg 0.004mg Honey
Threonine mg 0.004mg Honey
Isoleucine mg 0.008mg Honey
Leucine mg 0.01mg Honey
Lysine mg 0.008mg Honey
Methionine mg 0.001mg Honey
Phenylalanine mg 0.011mg Honey
Valine mg 0.009mg Honey
Histidine mg 0.001mg Honey
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 0g 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 0g
Polyunsaturated fat 0g 0g

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Brown sugar Honey
Low Fats diet Equal
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
2
Brown sugar
2
Honey
Mineral Summary Score
11
Brown sugar
5
Honey

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
1%
Brown sugar
2%
Honey
Carbohydrates
98%
Brown sugar
82%
Honey
Fats
0%
Brown sugar
0%
Honey

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Honey
Honey is lower in Sugar (difference - 14.9g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Honey
Honey contains less Sodium (difference - 24mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Honey
Honey is lower in glycemic index (difference - 10)
Which food is cheaper?
Brown sugar
Brown sugar is cheaper (difference - $3)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Brown sugar
Brown sugar is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food contains less Saturated Fat?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Saturated Fat (0 g)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Brown sugar - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168833/nutrients
  2. Honey - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169640/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.