paleo substitute for brown sugar

We’ve heard all our lives that brown rice is healthier than white rice, and brown bread is healthier than white bread, and brown pasta is healthier than white pasta, so the natural progression is to think that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, right? Well, brown rice, bread, and pasta are not Paleo anyway, so we should certainly be reconsidering everything we thought we knew about “brown” being more nutritious than “white.” Today we’re going to delve a little deeper into brown sugar; is it Paleo?

What is Brown Sugar?

Sugar is the general name of that sweet, crystalline substance that comes from a variety of plants. White table sugar is a simple carbohydrate of pure sucrose. While sugars in different forms are common in nature, the only two places with high enough concentrations of sucrose for extraction are sugar cane and sugar beet plants. In the normal creation of sugar, the stalks of the cane or beet plant are harvested, and the juice is extracted. It is heated and clarified to kill enzymes, then further heated to evaporate the water and encourage concentration. Eventually we are left with a sugary liquid, studded with sugar crystals. This product is dried completely, and called cane sugar, raw sugar, or sometimes, “natural brown sugar,” but this isn’t what we normally find in the baking aisle.

Is Brown Sugar Paleo?

Natural brown sugar is quite different from the commonly called “brown sugar” which is used in baking products. The natural cane sugar is further processed and refined to remove the brown color, and any other “impurities” (minerals) keeping it from being 100% sucrose. Finally, to make brown sugar for baking, these refined white sugar crystals of 100% sucrose are coated in molasses. In fact, you can make your own brown sugar by blending about a tablespoon of molasses with a cup of white sugar. It’s essentially the same thing.

So at the end of it all, yes, brown sugar might be a little healthier, because it contains more minerals than white sugar, due to the addition of molasses, but no, brown sugar is not Paleo. If you’re looking for a sugar substitute, your best bet is to work with molasses, local honey, maple syrup, or dates instead.

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