White, brown and muscovado sugar: similarities and differences

White, brown, muscovado sugar … Who does not like the sweet flavor obtained when tasting these ingredients? Well, it is not a sin to confess that most of us love it. And it is that, when savoring it, our brain releases high doses of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, that produces pleasure and relaxation.

Therefore, when this substance is absent, a state of depression can occur. That does not mean that it can be taken in excess. As experts in human nutrition put it in the Journal of the Faculty of Medicine, the abundant consumption of sugar is harmful to health.

Thus, it can be included in the diet, but in minimal quantities. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an adult intake of 5% of total calories from sugar. This equates to about 25 grams a day.

However, it must be considered that this ingredient is also hidden in processed foods, such as jams, candies, drinks, among others. In addition, regardless of its presentation, it is sucrose with some differences in its color and flavor. Let's see more below.

Processes for obtaining sucrose crystals

In order to understand the differences or similarities between the types of sugar, we must understand the origin of this natural sweetener. The manufacturing process is based on cane juice or sugar beet. This is clarified and evaporated until obtaining a syrup or molasses.

From said product, crystals are formed. However, depending on their degree of processing or refining, they can be white, brown or muscovado. Are there differences between these sweeteners?

What is white sugar?

Generally, sugar is known as sucrose, since this carbohydrate is present in almost 100% of the product. According to the Spanish Food Code, the definition of sucrose is as follows:

The product obtained industrially from sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L.), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris, L, var, rapa) and other saccharin plants, in a sufficient state of purity for human consumption.

Sucrose is formed by the union of two very simple molecules such as glucose and fructose. In addition, it is the most used natural sweetener in the world and the most important from an economic point of view. When we talk about white sugar we refer to obtaining refined sucrose crystals from molasses.

This by-product is purified and subjected to a rigorous cleaning to remove all impurities. Therefore, it is also known as "refined." The taste is sweet, with a neutral odor and has a purity of 99% sucrose.

White sugar is subjected to a refining process that removes all impurities. It is made up of almost 100% sucrose.

What is brown sugar?

Brown sugar can be whole or refined. The latter is obtained by adding molasses to the refined product to provide a different color and flavor. In short, from refined to dark, what changes is the color. The sucrose content is the same. According to the amount of molasses added, it will be more or less dark.

However, there is another type of brown sugar that corresponds to the so-called integral. This is semi-refined, with yellow crystals and coarse grain. Obtained by a partial separation of water from molasses and impurities, through a process known as centrifugation. Its sucrose content is 95%.

Read also: What are the health effects of refined sugar?

What is muscovado sugar?

Muscovado sugar, "moscabado" or "mascabada", has its origin in the seventeenth century, and in Portuguese the term was used to indicate the worst quality sugar. However, far from this denomination, it is considered integral, obtained by traditional methods. but without the process of centrifugation or separation of the molasses.

The molasses crystallizes very slowly, and is then granulated and marketed as such. It is also known as "raw sugar" and contains 97% sucrose, with slightly more water than refined.

Main differences between white, brown and muscovado sugar

To better understand the differences between the 3 types of products, we must start with the similarities. First, Its production is made from the same raw material, that is, cane or sugar beet. Furthermore, the main by-product in all three cases is molasses.

Depending on the cleaning and crystallization processes applied to the molasses, each variety will be obtained. Paulina Obando, gastronomy technologist, refers that the sucrose content is similar between them. It ranges between 95% and 99%.

Therefore, the amounts of calories they contribute are almost the same. One tablespoon provides approximately 60 calories. How are they different then? The answer is very simple. They vary in how molasses is processed, and therefore in its taste and color.

To obtain white sugar, the molasses is evaporated, crystallized and centrifuged before the refining process. It has a very sweet taste and its crystals reflect light to give a white color.

The raw material to obtain the different types of sugars is the same. Its caloric content is even similar.

For the process of obtaining brown sugar only the refined one is mixed with a little molasses to give it the characteristic brown color. But when the molasses is semi-refined, and partially extracted of impurities, a brown sugar with a slightly more intense color and caramel flavor is obtained.

The amount of molasses that remains with the crystals allows it to be classified as brown, light or dark. Both sugars are sweeter than white, and dark has a sticky, caked texture with a mild caramel flavor.

If the molasses is not extracted from the sucrose crystals, the muscabada sugar is obtained. It just evaporates and crystallizes before granulating. This allows a higher content of water and natural minerals in the cane, such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

However, their concentrations are minimal, so it would be counterproductive to ingest more than 100 g of muscovado sugar to reach the nutritional recommendations. Its color is much darker and the flavor is more intense than that of brown sugar.

Read also: Muscovado sugar: everything you did not know

What is there to remember about these types of sugar?

The differences between these 3 types of sugar make it clear that there is not one better than the other. All provide almost the same amount of sucrose and calories, with only negligible variations between them.

The amount of minerals present in brown sugar or muscabado does not provide an important nutritional value for the diet. Therefore, in our eating plan we must regulate its consumption, whatever its type, if we want to lead a healthier lifestyle.