Is white, brown, raw sugar or honey better?

Ancel Keys, the American scholar who coordinated the studies of the Mediterranean Diet model in the 1950s wrote that just one day is enough to give life to a new food thesis, even if it is unfounded, but 10 years of scientific research aimed at countering it are not enough to get her out of people’s minds.


And that’s right! We all have our beliefs that are rooted because tradition has passed them on to us, because after having experienced something we have made it into a law or because they are well presented to us by those who sponsor a product or a professional activity.

Even more today, given the ease of finding information, it is possible to become ensnared by certain slogans, or by certain theories which then become criteria of choice which also condition important issues such as that of Nutrition.

Everyone talks about nutrition: but are they all competent?

White/brown/raw sugar

“I put sugar in my coffee, but with cane!”. What is the difference between the different types of sugar? Is honey better?

From a caloric point of view there is no difference between white or brown sugar .

The sugar that we find on the market is composed exclusively of sucrose, a sugar molecule formed by the sum of two simpler sugars: glucose and fructose. On the shelves of shops or at the bar we find mostly three types of product:

  • Whitesugar from sugar cane or beets
  • Raw canedue to a non-total refinement of the cane and therefore darker in color
  • Wholecane sugar which actually has slightly fewer calories (but very few fewer!) which contains small amounts of fiber and minerals which give the sugar a particular taste

Which one to choose? It’s just a matter of personal taste, not calories!


Honey is a product of animal origin and is a solution of simple sugars for 80% of its weight (a solution of glucose, fructose and very little sucrose). 18% of honey is made up of water and this explains why it has fewer calories than sugar by weight:

Honey= 300 kcal/100g

Sugar= 400 kcal/100g

In honey we also find traces of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols, but the truth is that the bioavailability of these trace elements is very low given the small quantities!

For example, honey may contain calcium, but to have the same amount as in a glass of milk we should consume 300 tablespoons, or 6 kg!

Honey has on its side a sweetening power greater than that of sugar , so we could replace it with sugar and consume it in smaller quantities while saving calories!

Moreover, there are honeys of different botanical origin (about 300) with different colors and aromas from each other! Here the choice is certainly wider as regards the possibility of trying different tastes.

But how much can I eat?

The LARN guidelines (Reference Intake Levels of Nutrients and Energy for the Italian population) are clear in this regard:

They do not exclude the consumption of simple sugars, but limit it to a percentage equal to 15% of the daily caloric intake , also considering the other sources of simple sugars deriving from fruit, milk and jam.

To be clear, for an adult with an averagely active lifestyle, 2 teaspoons of sugar a day or three shaves of honey is an acceptable amount!

Even the WHO (World Health Organization) has indicated a limit threshold for the consumption of simple sugars equal to 10% of daily calories, excluding however those deriving from fruit and milk.

The hidden sugar

Let’s also consider that sugar is found in products we would never think of: some tomato pulps, sauces such as ketchup, not to mention carbonated drinks or fruit juices or in some pre-cooked food preparations.

It is therefore easy to exceed the recommended threshold!

The national and global guidelines are clear: it is not necessary to exclude it but it must be limited, especially in children!