Dulce de Leche vs. Caramel — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
- Macronutrients and Calories
- Glycemic Index
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Downsides and Risks
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 sugar (usually white granulated) and water.
Caramel has a darker brown color and denser consistency.
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 increase the risk of various chronic diseases.
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, and 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, and 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.
The nutritional values are presented for 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).
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 proteins, whereas caramel contains slightly more fats.
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.
Both dulce de leche and caramel are very high in carbs, with caramel containing almost 22g more carbs.
A 100g dulce de leche contains 55.35g of carbs, whereas caramel contains 77g. The carbs are mainly sugar (sucrose).
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.
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.
There is no information provided about the glycemic index values of dulce de leche and caramel.
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 100g serving of dulce de leche provides 315 calories, while caramel provides 382 calories.
These foods are not suitable for weight-loss diets; however, dulce de leche would be a better choice for low-carb, low-fat, 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.
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 caramel and dulce de leche are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants, they mainly have adverse health effects caused by excess carbs and unhealthy fats.
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).
Fats mentioned above are another reason for cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risks, worsening the disease, and all-cause mortality rates.
Unhealthy fats are associated with changes in the heart's structure and function, predominantly the heart's left ventricle, 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).
Diacetyl is a butter flavoring in caramel that may adversely affect the respiratory system. Employees with 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.
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).
- Ultra-processed food intake and cardiovascular disease risk
- Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and Food Flavorings Containing Diacetyl
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||74µg||12µg|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0.004g||0g|
|Omega-3 - DPA||0.009g||0g|
|Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid||0.001g|
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||0.131g|
|Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid||0.002g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||0.05g|
|Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid||0.001g|
|Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid||0.005g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|