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Unrefined Sugars vs Common Sweeteners (Visual Chart)

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

So many myths and misunderstandings surround the so-called unrefined sugars, I previously dedicated an entire blog post to write about them ---- 4 Myths about Unrefined Sugar. To help you compare common sweeteners you find in stores with unrefined sugars, I made an infographic.

Cane sugars in unrefined (Sucanat, muscovado), raw (turbinado, demerara), and refined (table sugar) forms are compared with honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and coconut sugar.

Sucanat vs Muscovado vs Table Sugar vs Honey

Infographic Takeaways

  • About unrefined sugar: It is, in fact, a partially refined cane sugar with 88 to 97% sucrose, and a minuscule amount of minerals. It differs from table sugar because of its rich molasses flavor and color. But unrefined sugars are not much different from table sugar when it comes to composition, sweetness, calories, and the effect on blood sugar levels.

  • Caloric sweeteners = sugar + water: All cane sweeteners (unrefined, raw, and refined), coconut sugar, and other sweeteners in liquid form (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar) consist of a blend of sugar and water. Liquid sweeteners contain about 20 to 35% water and granulated sweeteners from 0.03 to 7% water. The remaining consist of one or more sugars, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. They do differ in how they affect the taste and the texture of foods.

  • All caloric sweeteners contain sucrose, glucose, and fructose in various proportions: Sucrose is a double sugar made up of two single sugars --- glucose and fructose --- stuck together. Because digestive enzymes split sucrose into glucose and fructose, our body recognizes any of those sweeteners as a blend of glucose and fructose. In most varieties of honey and agave nectar, fructose is present in higher amounts than glucose. Maple syrup, cane sweeteners, and coconut sugar have about the same amount of fructose and glucose.

We should choose any of those sugars in granulated and liquid forms for their unique flavor, their culinary role, or our satisfaction. But not based on their nutrition value, as one is not much different than the other.

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Natural sugars survived nature and also have trace minerals which kill bad guys in the gut. Refined sugars do not. Another (important) difference. Which makes real maple syrup, honey, molasses, agave (and some others) different from the fake kind (typically colored, flavored and thickened sugar water). That's how I think about it.

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