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Dulce de Leche vs Caramel - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on August 02, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Dulce de Leche
vs
Caramel

Summary

Dulce de leche is richer in choline, vitamin C, vitamins A and D, as well as vitamins B2, B3, B5, and B9, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium.

Caramel is richer in vitamins B1 and B6, vitamins E and K, copper, and lower in sodium.

Most health benefits are associated with choline and downsides or risks with high unhealthy fats and sugar levels.

Introduction

Dulce de leche and caramel are confectionery products made by heating sugar. Dulce de leche is prepared by heating sugar and milk, whereas caramel is prepared by heating different sugars. Both of them are sweet, and while on the one hand, products made from dulce de leche and caramel are tasty and improve our moods, on the other hand, they contain risk factors for our health. The main nutritional differences between dulce de leche and caramel and their impact on health are provided in this article.

Use

Dulce de leche is used in a lot of ways. As an ingredient, it’s used in cakes, ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, sundae cups, cheesecakes, brownies, peach pies, caramel or bread puddings, doughnuts, desserts; it can be used as a topping for waffles or pancakes, sweetens the milk or coffee as well.

Caramel is used in chip pancakes, caramel bacon, brownie bites, popcorn balls, cornbread, cookies, truffles, nuts, eclairs, marshmallows. It is also used as a filling in chocolate candies, flavoring in puddings and desserts, toppings for ice cream, and cakes. Caramel is used in chai lattes, hot cocoa, and rum too.

Nutrition

The nutritional values are presented for raw dulce de leche and caramel.

Macronutrients and Calories

Dulce de leche consists of 28.7% water, whereas caramel consists of 8.5% water, being much denser.

One serving size of dulce de leche is 1tbsp (19 grams), while one serving size of caramel is one piece (10.1 grams).

Calories

Both dulce de leche and caramel are very high in calories. However, caramel provides relatively more calories.

A 100 gram serving of dulce de leche provides 315 calories, whereas a 100 gram serving of caramel provides 382 calories.

Protein and Fats

Dulce de leche contains almost 1.5 times more protein when compared to caramel.

Caramel has high protein quality, as it contains all essential amino acids.

Caramel is richer in fats when compared to dulce de leche. The predominant fats found in caramel are polyunsaturated fatty acids, 1.4 times more when compared to saturated fats. On the other hand, the predominant fats found in dulce de leche are saturated fatty acids, 12 times more than polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Dulce de leche contains four times more cholesterol compared to caramel.

Carbohydrates

Both dulce de leche and caramel are high in carbohydrates, predominantly sugar. However, caramel contains more carbs.

Dulce de leche contains some amounts of fructose.

Vitamins

Dulce de leche is more than six times richer in vitamins C and A. It is also richer in vitamins D, B2, B3, B5, B9, or Folate.

Caramel is more than six times richer in vitamin B6; it is richer in vitamins B1, E, and K.

Caramel is absent in vitamin D.

Dulce de leche and caramel are equal in vitamin B12.

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
:
Contains more Vitamin A +535.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +550%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +58.2%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +41.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +34.7%
Contains more Folate +175%
Contains more Vitamin E +130%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +543.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +250%
Contains more Vitamin K +38.5%
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 0.3
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 17% 4% 6% 9% 4% 94% 4% 51% 4% 9% 39% 4%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 3% 10% 0% 2% 26% 60% 3% 38% 13% 3% 38% 5%
Contains more Vitamin A +535.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +550%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +58.2%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +41.9%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +34.7%
Contains more Folate +175%
Contains more Vitamin E +130%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +543.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +250%
Contains more Vitamin K +38.5%
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 0.3

Minerals

Dulce de leche is richer in most of the minerals. It is richer in iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium.

Caramel is 4.5 times richer in copper and almost two times lower in sodium.

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 +81.9%
Contains more Iron +21.4%
Contains more Magnesium +29.4%
Contains more Phosphorus +69.3%
Contains more Potassium +63.6%
Contains less Sodium -47.3%
Contains more Zinc +79.5%
Contains more Copper +350%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 76% 7% 16% 83% 31% 17% 22% 2%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 42% 6% 13% 49% 19% 32% 12% 6%
Contains more Calcium +81.9%
Contains more Iron +21.4%
Contains more Magnesium +29.4%
Contains more Phosphorus +69.3%
Contains more Potassium +63.6%
Contains less Sodium -47.3%
Contains more Zinc +79.5%
Contains more Copper +350%

Glycemic Index

There is no information provided about the glycemic index values of these foods.

Acidity

The PRAL value or potential renal acid load value shows the amount of acid the consumed food produces.

The PRAL values for dulce de leche and caramel are -0.7 and -0.3, respectively. Dulce de leche has a more negative value; therefore, it is more base producing when compared to caramel.

Weight Loss & Diets

A hundred gram serving of dulce de leche provides 315 calories, while a hundred gram serving of caramel provides 382 calories.

These foods are not suitable for weight-loss diets; however, dulce de leche would be a better choice for low-carbs, low-fats, and low-calorie diets when compared to caramel.

These foods can be used in the third and fourth stages of the Dukan Diet.

They are not a good choice for weight gain diets as well, as they contain too much sugar and lead to unhealthy weight gain.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Neurological Health

Choline is a micronutrient required for normal brain development and growth. Dulce de leche contains eleven times more choline compared to caramel.

Choline plays an essential role in maintaining the structural and functional integrity of cell membranes; leads to acetylcholine synthesis, which modulates cholinergic neurotransmission․

Choline improves mood, memory, and cognitive functions as well (1).

Research on mice has shown that choline supplementation during adulthood reveals a beneficial effect on Alzheimer’s disease progression and shows therapeutic effects for patients (2).

Downsides and Risks

Even though these foods contain a good amount of protein, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, they mainly have adverse health effects caused by the large amounts of unhealthy fats (cholesterol, trans and saturated fats) and carbs (sugar).

Excess carbs are converted to triglycerides for long-term energy storage. A diet rich in carbs stimulates this process both in the liver and fat tissue leading to elevated postprandial triglycerides, showing adverse effects on health (3, 4).

Studies suggest replacing mentioned fats with polyunsaturated fatty acids, as they are better for health (5).

Cardiovascular Health

Fats mentioned above are an additional reason for cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risks, worsening the disease, and all-cause mortality rates.

Unhealthy fats are associated with changes in the structure and function of the heart, predominantly the left ventricle of the heart, leading to its mass and volume gain (6).

High cholesterol impacts cardiac arrhythmias and leads to the development of atherosclerosis (7, 8).

Acrolein is a compound formed during the fat heating process in caramel and is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk (9, 10).

Respiratory Health

Diacetyl is a butter flavoring in caramel that may adversely affect the respiratory system. Employees having jobs involving diacetyl exposure or food flavorings containing diacetyl show increased occurrence of airway obstruction, bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung,” and other respiratory disorders (11).

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease & insulin resistance

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease that affects up to a quarter of the population. One of its types is hepatic steatosis or fatty liver.

In most cases, hepatic steatosis is linked to the ingestion of dietary fat. The disease is characterized by increased uptake of free fatty acids by the liver and de novo lipogenesis (synthesis of fat from carbohydrates). Insulin resistance plays its role in developing and progressing hepatic steatosis by increasing free fatty acids levels (12, 13).

On the other hand, hepatic steatosis is linked to the secondary development of hepatic insulin resistance (14).

Fat-induced insulin resistance appears in skeletal muscles as well (15). Insulin resistance plays a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes

Large amounts or frequent use of dulce de leche and caramel lead to unhealthy weight gain and increase the risk of obesity. Obesity usually goes in parallel with fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance leading to a high likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes (16, 17, 18).

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31817768/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31298459/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24814684/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1083868/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28645222/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33213727/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20602558/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32645995/
  9. Ultra-processed food intake and cardiovascular disease risk
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25099132/
  11. Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and Food Flavorings Containing Diacetyl
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29936596/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28585211/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15571427/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995547/
  16. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/acb.2003.58.6.001
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20693348/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31424428/
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: August 02, 2021

Infographic

Dulce de Leche vs Caramel 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.
Dulce de Leche Caramel
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Dulce de Leche Caramel Opinion
Net carbs 55.35g 77g Caramel
Protein 6.84g 4.6g Dulce de Leche
Fats 7.35g 8.1g Caramel
Carbs 55.35g 77g Caramel
Calories 315kcal 382kcal Caramel
Starch g g
Fructose 0.32g g Dulce de Leche
Sugar 49.74g 65.5g Dulce de Leche
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 251mg 138mg Dulce de Leche
Iron 0.17mg 0.14mg Dulce de Leche
Magnesium 22mg 17mg Dulce de Leche
Phosphorus 193mg 114mg Dulce de Leche
Potassium 350mg 214mg Dulce de Leche
Sodium 129mg 245mg Dulce de Leche
Zinc 0.79mg 0.44mg Dulce de Leche
Copper 0.004mg 0.018mg Caramel
Vitamin A 267IU 42IU Dulce de Leche
Vitamin E 0.2mg 0.46mg Caramel
Vitamin D 6IU 0IU Dulce de Leche
Vitamin D 0.2µg 0µg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin C 2.6mg 0.4mg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin B1 0.016mg 0.103mg Caramel
Vitamin B2 0.405mg 0.256mg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin B3 0.21mg 0.148mg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin B5 0.835mg 0.62mg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin B6 0.016mg 0.056mg Caramel
Folate 11µg 4µg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin B12 0.31µg 0.3µg Dulce de Leche
Vitamin K 1.3µg 1.8µg Caramel
Tryptophan mg 0.06mg Caramel
Threonine mg 0.192mg Caramel
Isoleucine mg 0.258mg Caramel
Leucine mg 0.417mg Caramel
Lysine mg 0.338mg Caramel
Methionine mg 0.107mg Caramel
Phenylalanine mg 0.205mg Caramel
Valine mg 0.285mg Caramel
Histidine mg 0.115mg Caramel
Cholesterol 29mg 7mg Caramel
Trans Fat 0.364g g Caramel
Saturated Fat 4.534g 2.476g Caramel
Monounsaturated Fat 2.143g 1.542g Dulce de Leche
Polyunsaturated fat 0.375g 3.478g Caramel

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Dulce de Leche Caramel
Low Fats diet ok
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
20
Dulce de Leche
16
Caramel
Mineral Summary Score
31
Dulce de Leche
22
Caramel

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
41%
Dulce de Leche
28%
Caramel
Carbohydrates
55%
Dulce de Leche
77%
Caramel
Fats
34%
Dulce de Leche
37%
Caramel

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is lower in Sugar (difference - 15.76g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche contains less Sodium (difference - 116mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is lower in glycemic index (difference - 23)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Caramel
Caramel is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 22mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Caramel
Caramel is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.058g)
Which food is cheaper?
Caramel
Caramel is cheaper (difference - $1.5)

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. Dulce de Leche - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173461/nutrients
  2. Caramel - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167974/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.