Weight Loss: Is Brown sugar or honey healthier than white sugar??

Scenario 1: I’ve started using brown sugar / demerara sugar / shakkar / gur / jaggery / honey at home and in desserts because it’s so much healthier.

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Scenario 2: While working at a coffee shop, two ladies occupied the table next to mine. One takes a look around her tray, loaded with a cappuccino and a large blueberry muffin and says, I’m trying to lose weight and have started using brown sugar instead of white sugar. It’s much healthier you know?!

Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional properties of brown sugar, honey and white sugar. Click the links to see the original pages from the USDA Food Composition Database.

Let’s first see the calories in each of these. Per 5 gm teaspoon, brown sugar has 19 calories, honey has 15 calories and white sugar has 18.75 calories. From this point of view, white sugar has less calories than brown sugar and more than honey. So, if you use, say, 5 teaspoons (5 gm each) of sugar a day, you’ll end up with:

  • Brown sugar: 95 calories
  • Honey: 75 calories
  • White sugar: 93.75

The difference as you can see, is between 1.25 calories to 20 calories a day, depending on your choice, both of which are negligible from a weight loss point of view. 

Let’s also see how much of each is pure sugar, shall we? Brown sugar is 97.02% pure sugar, honey is 82.12% pure sugar and white sugar is 100% pure sugar. Again, not much difference, though honey supporters are likely to point to the 18% difference as ‘extra nutrition’.

Taking again a total of 5 teaspoons (5 gm each) per day, let’s see how much ‘additional nutrition’ we could gain from honey. 18% of 5 teaspoons is 4.5 gm @ 0.9 gm per teaspoon. Effectively, to gain 4.5 gm of ‘additional nutrition’, we’re consuming 20.5 grams of pure sugar.

From a specific nutrient point of view, say, of Vitamin C, of which honey contains 0.5 mg per 100 gm, 5 teaspoons or 25 gm of sugar will give us 0.125 mg. A 19-30 year old male requires 90 mg a day and a female in the same age range, 75 mg a day. 

Honey will deliver 75mg of Vitamin C on the consumption of 15 kilos. A guava on the other hand, which contains 228.3 mg of Vitamin C per 100 gm will deliver the same amount in less than 50 gm – not even one whole guava. 


Other perspectives do exist, such as honey being preferable from a diabetic’s point of view and about honey being an anti-diabetic agent. Then there’s the anti-oxidant perspective; the flavonoid content of honey has been co-related to anti-oxidant activities. Unless you’re super technical and are gunning for honey-specific anti-oxidant activity, I’d say go for green tea at zero calories a cup.

From a weight loss point of view or even from one of obtaining daily doses of nutrients,  substituting white sugar with honey or brown sugar offers no significant benefits to the average, otherwise healthy person.


  1. USDA Food Composition Database for Standard Reference
  2. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
  3. Honey and diabetes mellitus: Obstacles and challenges – Road to be repaired
  4. Honey and Diabetes: The Importance of Natural Simple Sugars in Diet for Preventing and Treating Different Type of Diabetes
  5. Antioxidant Activity of Three Honey Samples in relation with Their Biochemical Components

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