Whisk Food Facts: Sugar-Coated Sweetness
This blog post on brown and cane sugar is part of our Food Facts blog series meant to expose some of these funny nuances and illustrate why they matter for your food creations. At Whisk, we glean insights from the half a billion recipe interactions that take place on our platform every month. Accurately classifying and grouping ingredients yielded from these recipes are incredibly important in creating better food experiences. In addition to using AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) to help improve our understanding of these nuances, we employ human intellect to train computers on more complicated information that is inherent in food experiences and recipes. Hopefully you learn a thing or two along the way.
Have you ever wondered why some recipes call for brown sugar over refined sugar? What’s the difference between raw sugar and coconut sugar? You might wonder if one is healthier than another or if one creates a different texture in the final dish. No need to feel confused about these sweet granules anymore. Let’s set it straight.
Raw sugar is the least processed form of sugar, created when sugar millers grind and press sugar cane to extract the sweet juices and form crystals. These crystals are light, golden brown, and after going through the filtration and hot water washes, the sugar contains 96 percent sucrose and four percent plant material. Raw sugar has about 15 calories per teaspoon and can either be purchased by consumers or to the refinery for further processing.
White sugar is highly refined and is made from sugarcane and sugar beets. The refining process removes impurities through a chemical process but may also remove beneficial nutrients. It’s made up of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. It contains 16.3 calories per teaspoon.
Brown sugar is actually just refined white sugar with sugarcane molasses added in. Brown sugar can contain up to 10 percent molasses, but generally has 95 percent sucrose and five percent molasses. As a result of this molasses, brown sugar contains slightly more calcium, iron, and potassium than white sugar, but not enough to be considered significantly nutritious. It provides 15 calories per teaspoon.
You may have also heard of coconut sugar, which has risen in popularity lately as a healthier, more sustainable sugar choice. Coconut sugar can come in granular or liquid form and is made from the liquid sap of a coconut palm flower, which is then heated until all its water evaporates. The brown color is due to caramelization. 70 percent of coconut sugar is sucrose and the rest is individual molecules of fructose and glucose. Naturally, coconut sugar contains iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, as well as inulin, a prebiotic fiber, but it’s high in calories which generally outweigh these benefits.
What about substituting one type of sugar for another? When it comes to raw sugar (richer flavor) over white sugar, you can use equal parts or less (¾ cup) when substituting. For white versus brown sugar, baked goods made with white sugar will rise more, whereas cookies made with brown sugar will be more moist and dense and darker in color. Coconut sugar and brown sugar are often considered interchangeable, but in baked goods, coconut sugar may cause a denser, dry, or speckled texture.
Now that you’ve read this post, you no longer have to feel puzzled by the various types of sugar on the market. You can use Whisk to convert your most beloved sweet treats into shopping lists, and have the knowledge to swap whatever sugar you please.
The Whisk Team