A kilner jar containing brown sugar

Different types of sugars and health

Are there health differences between the different types of sugars?

From a nutritional perspective, there is very little difference between the sugar produced from sugar cane or sugar beet, including between white and brown sugars, and crystallised and liquid sugars. Sugar produced from sugar cane or sugar beet provide 4 kcal per gram (1) and both are digested in the body in the same way (2). 

Various fruit sugar, molasses, dates, coconut date sugar, maple syrup

Did you know?

There is a common misconception that alternatives to beet and cane sugar, such as honey, maple or agave syrup, or sugars from other plants such as coconut sugar, or date palm sugar, are “healthier”. Nutritionally these provide a similar amount of energy (calories) per gram and are digested in the body in the same way as cane and beet sugar (2).

The amounts of micronutrients (vitamin and mineral content) contributed to the diet from sugars such as coconut sugar is considered to be insignificant (3). 

Similarly for brown sugars from sugar cane and sugar beet, the micronutrients (vitamin and mineral content) can vary slightly. This is due to very small amounts of naturally occurring minerals in molasses, which gives brown sugars their distinctive tastes, however these minerals are not in amounts that are significant to health (4).


  1. British Nutrition Foundation. Energy balance and weight. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/health-conditions/overweight-obesity-and-weight-loss/energy-balance-and-weight/?level=Health%20professional#:~:text=To%20maintain%20bodyweight%2C%20it%20is,energy%20intake%20must%20exceed%20expenditure.
  2. Brouns, F. Maastricht University. How do our bodies digest sugar? 2017 https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/news/blog-how-do-our-bodies-digest-sugar
  3. British Heart Foundation: Coconut Sugar https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/ask-the-expert/coconut-palm-sugar
  4. Public Health England 2014. McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods: Seventh Summary Edition.