Looking for that perfectly sweet, rich sweetener that adds just enough texture to create the ultimate soft, savory treat?
For some, regular cane sugar might do the trick. But for particular recipes, regular sugar simply won’t do. After all, sugar isn’t just needed for baking recipes. It can be a key ingredient found in dishes including meats and sauces.
However, not just any sugar can be added in. This is where brown sugar comes in.
What is Brown Sugar?
To put it simply — brown sugar is sugar that contains molasses. This pigmented sugar is made from adding molasses to the traditional refined white sugar processing. When it comes to brown sugar, there are a few different types.
The two main types are light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. Light brown sugar is the better option when looking to add into sweets for baking, sauces and glazes. Dark brown sugar, on the other hand, is most often used in recipes that require a thicker consistency due to its rich, molasses taste. This includes recipes such as gingerbread or meatloaf.
So what is this substance we’re adding to sugar to create brown sugar? Molasses is a rich brown, thick syrup that is extracted from the refining process of raw sugar. In fact, it’s probably the only real ingredient in brown sugar that gives it any nutritional value whatsoever (and really not much). The first discovery of molasses was made in the Caribbean, where the growth of sugarcane and sugar beet was most popular. However, production of this dark sauce can be found in Thailand, India, Brazil, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States.
There are also several different types of molasses that exist today. Some types of molasses include blackstrap molasses, cane molasses, sulfured molasses, unsulfured molasses and hydrol (molasses obtained from starch hydrolysis).
Molasses also offers several different health benefits. Some of these benefits include having key antioxidant properties, improving sexual and reproductive health, keeping bones healthy, relieves acne, increases red blood cell production, managing diabetes and managing obesity.
Those benefits come from pure molasses. To consume brown sugar, no matter how dark, to get these benefits would be ill advised and misguided.
Since brown sugar is technically made from the contents of sugarcane and molasses, it’s not necessarily considered a fruit or vegetable although sugarcane can be grown in vegetative reproduction.
No matter how bad refined sugar is for you, some people still want to eat it, even on keto. So… is brown sugar low carb or keto friendly?
A typical serving of brown sugar is two tablespoons, making up a total of 96 calories. These calories include zero grams of fat, zero grams of protein, 24 grams of carbs and 24 grams of sugar. As you can imagine, tablespoons add up faster than one may think.
How And When Does Brown Sugar Fit Into a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet?
With a carb count of 24 grams per serving, you may probably guess that brown sugar is not the ideal food for a low carb lifestyle. However, this also leaves the question of how and when you can still have this ingredient in your diet (if at all). If you’re worried brown sugar is completely off limits, there may be a solution.
When it comes to the keto diet, there are a few different types.
The standard ketogenic diet (SKD) is the traditional keto diet that most individuals start out on. This keto diet is what the majority of low carb dieters will follow in order to maintain ketosis and start burning ketones as fuel instead of carbs. This diet requires an average daily carb limit of anywhere from 20 to 50 grams per day. However, this amount can vary from individual to individual. In this case, adding brown sugar into your diet may be a bit difficult considering one serving size would put you right in the sweet spot of your carb limit for the day.
If you’re an individual with a more active lifestyle, this amount of carbs may not be enough. This leaves you with a couple different options.
The targeted keto diet (TKD) is meant for those that require more carbs around their workout window. The TKD allows for up to 20 to 50 additional grams of carbs up to an hour both before and after your workout window.
For individuals or athletes that train at such high intensity that this amount of carbs still aren’t enough to fuel your workouts, the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) may be your best get.
The CKD follows a traditional SKD for a majority of the week (up to five days) with up to one or two days of carb backloading. This means that for a 24 to 48 hour time period you follow a high carb, low fat macronutrient intake of up to 400 to 600 grams of carbs in order to completely refill your muscle glycogen in order to perform at your highest potential.
On these carb backloading days would be the perfect time for you to include brown sugar into your diet (if there’s ever a perfect time to eat something so highly processed).
When Should Brown Sugar Be Avoided on a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet?
Although the content of molasses in brown sugar gives this sweetener some additional health benefits, it still provides a high amount of sugar and carbs in general.
This can have a negative impact on your health, specifically your blood glucose levels. Individuals struggling with diabetes and other weight loss issues should still stay away from any food that creates a spike in insulin levels.
Along with individuals struggling with obesity or diabetes, if you’re trying to limit your carb intake at all — brown sugar should be avoided completely. If you’re consuming brown sugar while following a ketogenic diet, chances are you’ll be ‘kicked out’ of ketosis. This means that your body will resort back to its natural state of pulling from those carbs for fuel instead of your fat.
So Is Brown Sugar Keto Friendly?
While brown sugar may have the ability to offer some health benefits in comparison to regular cane sugar, it’s even higher in carbs and calories compared to traditional white sugar. With a carb count of 24 grams per serving, you’ll want to avoid brown sugar on the keto diet unless:
- You are following the cyclical ketogenic diet and only consume brown sugar on your carb backloading days.
- You are following the targeted ketogenic diet and have brown sugar immediately before or after your workout.
- Your carb intake for the day including the brown sugar does not exceed 50 grams of carbs.
Brown sugar is not low carb or keto friendly.