Sugar Is Sugar, By Any Other Name… Or Is It? (Part 1)

By now you’re probably aware of the news: People with diabetes can eat sugar! No, sugar isn’t going to spike up your blood glucose levels (unless you happen to pour the entire contents of the sugar bowl into your mouth). But sugar isn’t so simple anymore. For those of you who’ve decided to sneak some back into your eating plan, you’re now faced with some choices.

Years ago, your sugar decisions boiled down to granulated, light brown, dark brown, and confectioner’s. Now there’s a whole new world of sugar to choose from, depending on what your tastes are: coarse sugar, sanding sugar, turbinado sugar, muscovado sugar, demerara sugar…and that’s not even counting other forms of sugar, such as honey, molasses, dextrose, maltodextrin, and high-fructose corn syrup.

We’ve looked at this topic before in past blog posts (see “Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: Fitting Sugar Into Your Meal Plan”[1]), so I won’t reiterate too much about it here. But, as a quick recap, let’s look at what we know about sugar and diabetes:

The point is, then, that sugar isn’t as evil as some folks make it out to be. Sugar is all natural and comes from sugar beet or sugar cane plants. On the other hand, it’s not exactly a powerhouse of nutrition. Sugar doesn’t contain fiber, vitamins, or minerals, for example. It’s pure carbohydrate and doesn’t have too much else to offer.

So what about all the different types of sugar? Are some a better choice to use, say, in coffee or baking, than others? Let’s look at the different kinds and what it all means.

Despite some of the more “natural” sounding names, the bottom line with these sugars is that there’s no real nutritional advantage to using one over the other. Sure, brown sugar has a slightly higher mineral content than white sugar, but the difference is negligible. If your goal is to eat fewer refined foods, then go with one of the less-refined brown types. But you still have to count the carbs[2] and calories. And even brown sugar is linked with cavities.

Next week: Sugar in other forms.

  1. “Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: Fitting Sugar Into Your Meal Plan”:
  2. count the carbs:

Source URL:

Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.