Is Brown Sugar Healthy? Is It Safe in Diabetes?

Last Updated on May 4, 2023 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Managing your diabetes and maintain healthy blood sugar levels is the way to alter into a proper lifestyle. There are tons of restrictions that come along.

Cutting off on sweets, sugars, desserts, etc. is the most essential part of living with diabetes. But some questions arise in the minds of many regarding the alternative sweet products to replace sugar. Is there a right choice?

Well, let us find out about brown sugar. Is Brown sugar healthy? Is it safe in diabetes? Stay with us to find out and discover more information about this alternate sugar variety.

Is brown sugar safe for diabetic patients? 

Is brown sugar safe for diabetic patients

To be clear, just like its white counterpart, brown sugar is not good for diabetics as well. Although the brown sugar variety is often used as a healthier alternative over white sugar, it can still be unsafe for diabetics.

Veggie causing Diabetes

The effect that brown sugar has on one’s blood sugar levels is similar to that of the white sugar. There are not many benefits for diabetics in consuming brown sugar over white ones.

Just like white sugar, brown sugar is also refined. It’s a false fact that brown sugar is more natural and less refined. Brown sugar is just as refined as the white variety and thus, is harmful to the body, especially for diabetic individuals.

The calories and sugar content in brown sugar has been calculated to be less than that found in white sugar. But it is still a lot for diabetics. Brown sugar can have harmful effects on your blood glucose levels resulting in further negative health effects.

The intake of high-sugar food items can cause hyperglycemia in diabetic patients. The brown sugar also has the potential to give rise to an episode of hyperglycemia. Make sure you do not replace your everyday sugar with white sugar.


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Be it white or brown, sugar can have extremely negative health effects on your diabetic lifestyle. It not only raises the sugar content in the blood but also impairs the effective functioning of insulin.

Insulin is the crucial metabolic hormone that handles the carbohydrate digestion, and sugar absorption, and release. Excess sugar especially from direct sources such as sweets, refined sugars, etc. can heighten the already impaired functioning of this hormone. Damage to the insulin sensitivity can make it less responsive in moving the sugar in the body correctly.

People who are suffering from the condition of diabetes have to be extra careful about including brown sugars, or desserts made from it in their diet.

What are the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load of Brown Sugar? 

What are the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load of Brown Sugar

The Glycemic ranges assist in determining whether a particular food is safe or not for diabetics. They take into account the number of carbohydrates present in the food and the quantity of that food to calculate these ranges.

The Glycemic Index is categorized into 3 groups. The lowest range being the one with foods deemed safe for diabetic consumption. Foods that are said to fall under the Low GI range vary from 0 to 55.

Foods that are considered to be within a medium Glycemic Index range fall from 56 to 69. They are safe for diabetic individuals when taken in controlled amounts.

The foods that are high Glycemic Index precede a margin of 70. Foods that are from 70 to 100 can have very harmful effects on the blood sugar levels of diabetics. They must be avoided at all means to maintain good health.

Similarly, the Glycemic Load of foods is categorized into three:

Low GL = 0 to 10

Medium GL = 11 to 19

High = 20 and higher

Diabetics should focus on having foods that fall under a low Glycemic Load range.

Now, let us find out about the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of brown sugar:

Glycemic rangeValue
Glycemic Index64
Glycemic Load6 (2 teaspoons)

The table shows that consuming brown sugar is harmful as their Glycemic ranges are unsafe. Limiting the quantities of this brown sugar is not good either, because it will heighten the total carbs in all your foods and meals and the total effect on your blood sugars will be harmfully high.

Calories and carbohydrates in 1 tablespoon of Brown Sugar: 

Composition in 1 tbsp.  Values

We can easily find from the above data that brown sugars can be very high in calories as well as carbs, even if the quantity is low.

It is very important to always monitor your carbs as a diabetic. Generally, it is easier to add to your high blood sugar levels with the intake of sugars.

For instance, let us take a normal bowl of morning oatmeal. One cup of Oatmeal has around 25 grams of carbs. Adding only two tablespoons of the brown sugar can increase the total carbohydrates by two times.

The calories and carbs of foods can be very easily affected by sugars. Always keep a check on your daily sugars and restrict their quantities in your diabetic diet.

10 Disadvantages of eating Brown Sugar in Diabetes

By now we are clear that brown sugar should not be included in the diet if you are trying to manage your diabetic health. Here are some disadvantages of having brown sugar:

1. It can intensify the conditions of Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, weight gain, heart issues, fatty liver problems, etc.

2. It also slows the reactivity of insulin in the body. This in turn leads to inefficient absorption of sugar as the sensitivity of the hormone to remove sugar from the blood is hampered.

3. It’s excess consumption and side-effects increase the pulse rate. It implies that the heart has to work harder to pump blood. It pressurizes the heart system and burdens it.

4. It can cause sudden and extreme fluctuations in the levels of one’s blood sugar. This leads to hyperglycemia, which is a threatening condition for the body.

5. It also causes blood pressure to go up. Some many symptoms and ailments can be caused due to the increase in blood pressure.

6. Brown sugar being a direct source of carbohydrates provides instant energy. This can also lead to hyperactivity in individuals that can leave the individuals exhausted later on.

7. Excess intake of sugars, be it brown or white, can be threatening to one’s body weight maintenance as well. It increases body’s fat level. The storage of fats is influenced, which leads to some discomforts and heightened health conditions.

8. Brown sugars can also contribute to increased levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the reason for various chronic ailments that develop in the body over time.

9. The ill-effects of brown sugar can lead to low immunity, liver and heart diseases, cancers, etc.

10. Due to uncontrolled and rising diabetic levels caused by brown sugar, the other symptoms of it such as nervous system affects, pains, wounds, aches, appetite, etc. are increasingly harmed day by day.

What is the difference between Brown and White sugar?

What is the difference between Brown and White sugar

Frankly, these varieties of sugar are used for the same purpose of sweetening foods and dishes. Similarly, their other properties also match. There’s not much distinction when it comes to the health factor of these two versions of sugar.

The prime deal to keep in mind is that both of these varieties are refined while manufacturing. That means, their good nutrients are stripped off and they are left with lots of carbs and calories.

The one difference between the two varieties is the taste and texture of these two.

The brown sugar gains its color from the adding of molasses. While the processing step of these sugars, molasses is added to it that gives it its unique brown color.

The adding of molasses while processing and cooking methods also add in some amount of moistness to the brown sugar. The moisture provides a different texture to the overall sugar.

The added Molasses does make the sugar comparatively better than white dry sugar. Molasses has some amount of minerals. The minerals although add some benefits to the brown sugar, but on the other hand, do not make it better calorie or carbohydrate wise.

The difference in compositions of brown and White sugars: 

Sl. No. Nutritional Composition per 100 gramsWhite SugarBrown Sugar

From this table, we observe that the calories and carbohydrate levels of the sugar varieties, white as well as brown, are around the same. They are both very high for individuals, especially ones with diabetes.

Even though the brown sugar is proven to have more minerals than white refined sugar, it still has only minimal benefits. The bad is more intense than the good of this sugar.

What is the Daily sugar limit for Diabetics?

As per the many studies and doctors, diabetics are best suited to minimal or no-sugar diets. It is necessary to cut off on this carb-rich item.

But for safe consumption, The American Heart Association has recommended the following amounts of sugar for men and women:

For men: less than 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories, 38 grams).

For women: less than 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories, 25 grams).

3 Healthier Alternatives for Brown sugar in Diabetes

 Healthier Alternatives for Brown sugar in Diabetes

If you really want to include the sweetness in your sugar restricted diabetic diet, there are some solutions.

1. You can take healthier low glycaemic herbal sugar like Diabliss. It has high amounts of anti-oxidants and medicinal properties of pomegranate and gooseberry, which reduces glucose spikes. You can buy it from here

2. You can take methi-tulsi which is also called stevia. It is a leaf, that is 1000 times sweeter than normal sugar. It has zero calories and does not increase sugar levels in the body. You can buy it from here

3. You can also try other low calorie sweeteners like xylitol, erythritol, monk fruit etc. You can check them here

4. You can also resort to healthier varieties of food items that do not harm diabetic health such as fruits. Diabetic patients can have low glycaemic fruits such as apples, pears, berries, oranges, etc. These can help to satisfy your sugar cravings, without drastically raising glucose levels.


Brown sugars, just like white sugars, are refined and contain a high amount of carbs as well as calories. They can have grave impacts on one’s sugar levels.

Therefore, the intake of this must be controlled and replaced with better alternatives. It is essential to abide by the restrictions in a diabetic lifestyle.


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