Different types of sugar displayed in various forms on a table cloth

Myth or Fact: It’s Healthier to Bake my Cake with Brown Sugar than White Sugar.

Bowls of brown and white sugar placed on a red checkered table

In comparison with white sugar, brown sugar[1] contains additional minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. While this makes brown sugar seems like a healthier option, both types of sugar contain the same amount of calories.

As for the additional minerals, according to The New York Times[2], the difference is so miniscule that there’s no real health benefit to baking with brown sugar. So while brown sugar enhances the taste of baked products and gives a nice caramelised sheen, it wouldn’t be a healthier option when it comes to calories!

Eat that cake in moderation — brown sugar or not!

Verdict: Myth! Both brown and white sugars contain the same calories so consume both in moderation.

Related: The Not-So-Sweet Truth about Sugar

Myth or Fact: Adding Honey to my Drink is Better than Adding Sugar.

A wooden spoon dipped into a bowl of honey, surrounded with honeycombs

Honey is a natural source, sold either raw or pasteurised. Its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties — which are not present in table sugar — are well documented. Though honey can contain other minerals and benefits, it is still sugar and contains similar calories to sugar.

Thus, honey needs to be consumed in moderation. Reduce the sugar or honey you are adding to your hot beverages by half. For a lower calorie and lower sugar option, you can go for natural maple syrup which has about 25% less (natural) sugar than honey and refined white sugar. If you want a zero-calorie option, add sweeteners or dried stevia leaves to your cuppa instead.

Verdict: Fact, but both honey and sugar still have similar calories so consume both in moderation.

Related: Sugar Rush

Myth or Fact: Drinking a cup of Fruit Juice is Better than Drinking a Can of Soda.

Three different types of drinks made with strawberries, including strawberry cordial, ice blended strawberry juice, and a strawberry and longan mocktail

Having a meal and feeling thirsty, but not sure which drink to pick? A soda or a fruit juice? While fruit juices contain more nutrients than soda, they may still contain a substantial amount of sugar. That can of soda may contain 7 teaspoons of sugar, but… (drum roll), a packaged fruit juice drink has 6.5, while fresh fruit juices contain 5 teaspoons of sugar! That’s half of the 11 teaspoons of “free sugar” (sugar added to foods or naturally present in honey and fruit juices) limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Annie Ling, director of HPB’s Obesity Prevention Division, said in The Straits Times[3]: “We apply the same allowance for sugar-sweetened drinks to fruit juices — no more than one glass a day.” So if you must — go for the fresh fruit juice that’s marginally healthier but stick to just one glass. Also, look out for packaged drinks with the Healthier Choice Symbol.

Verdict: Fact, but it isn’t better by a great margin. Have no more than one glass of fruit juice per day.

Related: Healthy vs Hype

Myth or Fact: Drinking Fresh Fruit Juices is as Good as Eating Fresh Fruits.

A cup of fruit punch and a bowl of freshly cut fruits on a wooden table

According to My Healthy Plate, we should have at least half a plate of fruits and veggies at every meal.

Could we replace the fruits with a fruit juice instead? According to TIME [4], it’s better to stick to the whole fruit as a whole orange can give us 2.3g of dietary fibre and 9g of sugar while a glass of orange juice has just 0.1g of dietary fibre and a sugar load of 20.8g!

Professor Barry Hopkins, at the department of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, told The Guardian[5] that research shows that “we feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large Coke.”

If cutting up a whole papaya or watermelon is too much trouble, try smaller fruits like pears, apples, or plums that can be eaten with their peel — as these give you an extra shot of dietary fiber that could help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Verdict: Myth. Having fruit over fruit juice means you get more vitamins, minerals, and fibre!


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References

  1. USDA Agricultural Research Service. (2016, May). National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Basic Report: 19334, Sugars, brown [USDA Agriculture Research Service].
    Retrieved April 2016 from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6318?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=sugar

  2. O'Connor, A. (2007, Jun). The Claim: Brown Sugar Is Healthier Than White Sugar. The New York Times.
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/12/health/nutrition/12real.html

  3. Khalik, S. (2014, Nov). Fruit juice often laden with sugar, warns HPB. The Straits Times.
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/fruit-juice-often-laden-with-sugar-warns-hpb

  4. Blue, L. (2009, Aug). Calorie counter: fruit vs. fruit juice. TIME.
    Retrieved April 2016 from http://healthland.time.com/2009/08/07/calorie-counter-fruit-vs-fruit-juice/

  5. Boseley, S. (2013, Sep). Smoothies and fruit juices are a new risk to health, US scientists warn. The Guardian.
    Retrieved April 2016 from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/07/smoothies-fruit-juices-new-health-risk