Alternative Healthy Substitution for Light Brown Sugar

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Brown sugar alternatives

Are you looking for a substitution for light brown sugar? Fun Fact: 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar has 4g of carbs. Many people have the wrong idea that brown sugar is much healthier than white sugar. In fact, it’s not. The molasses content has been removed from white and brown sugar. The difference is some molasses is added back to brown sugar. So in terms of nutritional value, it’s about the same for white, light/dark brown, and raw sugar. There are some healthier options in terms of sugar including sugarcane juice, which is the least processed option. There are also some sugar varieties with less processing than regular sugars.

The good news is that there are several substitutes for light brown sugar. Some like white sugar & maple sugar/molasses provide a small increase in nutritional value. However, there are better whole food options like maple syrup, raw honey, and coconut sugar. These options are less processed so they’re higher in nutrients while providing a sugary sweetness minus the white granules. If you’re on a low-carb diet like Keto or Atkins you should also check if the items are low in carbohydrates. This can help you to stay in ketosis and turn your body into a fat-burning machine.  

What Is Light Brown Sugar?

When you’re at your local supermarket, it can be tough to pick a sugar product. For example, you might see these varieties offered:

  • Confectioners 
  • White
  • Light Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Raw
  • Cane
  • Muscovado
  • Turbinado

These sugars are similar since they’re refined more than sugarcane juice. However, the amount of processing that’s done differs between different products. For example, while white sugar is highly-processed, muscovado is closer to whole food even though there’s some food processing involved.

One of the most popular types of sugar is brown sugar. The main options are light brown and dark brown. A myth that many people have is that brown sugar is much healthier than white sugar. However, that’s simply not true.

One of the main similarities between white and brown sugar is the natural molasses has been removed from both. The difference is that some molasses is added back to brown sugar. There are fewer molasses added to light brown sugar and more added to dark brown sugar.

To clarify the difference between light/dark brown sugar it’s important to take a closer look at how sugar is made. The process of making sugar is quite complex. For example, it starts with sugarcane juice.

Then a lot of processing starts. Lime juice and carbon dioxide are added to the sugarcane juice. The water is then removed through evaporation. Then more processing is done until it becomes white sugar. The difference with brown sugar is coated with molasses.

So the only difference is the molasses that’s added to white sugar. This adds more flavor/texture. However, it doesn’t make the brown sugar a superfood. The light brown sugar gets molasses weighing around 3.5% of the sugar’s total weight.

The fewer molasses causes light brown sugar to have a lighter flavor/texture. Meanwhile, the taste of dark brown sugar is often compared to caramel.

Substitution for Light Brown Sugar: Healthy Choices

It’s worth noting that the term “healthy” is somewhat relative. Artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet are low-calorie/carbs but not necessarily healthy.

Meanwhile, some options like monk fruit and stevia are from natural sources but aren’t really super-close substitutes for light brown sugar. Here are some better options:


This refers to real maple syrup and not the fake stuff sold at many supermarkets and fast food joints. It turns out that real maple syrup is quite healthy. It’s a tree sap product like coconut sugar. It’s also less processed like that sugar.

You’ll have to make a few adjustments when using maple syrup. Use 2/3 cup for each cup of brown sugar. You should also make the cooking time a couple of minutes shorter. That will help to prevent the syrup from caramelizing.


Refined honey is closer to light brown sugar, while raw sugar is more like dark brown sugar. However, in terms of nutritional value, you should pick unrefined honey.

That’s because it keeps more of the natural nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fun Fact: The world’s oldest honey is believed to be 5,500 years old.


This is a natural sweetener that’s less known than sugarcane. It’s closer to maple syrup because it’s made from the coconut tree’s sap. It’s a good option because you get some nutrients that aren’t in sugar that’s more refined.

A key plus of this option is you can use a 1:1 ratio so you won’t have to do any calculations to figure out how much coconut sugar you’ll have to add versus white sugar.

One drawback of coconut sugar is it’s less effective at holding moisture, which could be an issue when making certain baked goods. You could add some coconut oil or butter to boost the moisture content. Another option is to melt the coconut sugar.  

Top Low-Carb Sweeteners


This is an artificial sweetener so it’s not 100% natural. However, the body also doesn’t digest sucralose so you won’t get calories/carbs. Splenda is the most well-known brand name with this sweetener. One plus is it’s less bitter versus many other artificial sweeteners.  


This one sounds like an artificial sweetener but it’s actually from the plant named Stevia rebaudiana. The amount of processing done to make the sweetener can vary. However, it’s made from the natural plant. Stevia has low or no calories/carbs so it’s another big difference with sugar.

Another interesting fact is some studies show that stevia might help to lower blood sugar levels. This is different from sugarcane that causes blood sugar spikes. This natural sweetener is available in liquid/powder form and can sweeten beverages, desserts, etc.


This is one of the most popular sugar alcohols used in products like gum, mints, and candies. While Xylitol matches sugar’s sweetness it has only 3 calories/gram, and 4g of carbs/tsp. This makes it a good option for people on Keto or Atkins.

This sweetener is a good option for several beverages including coffee, tea, smoothies, and shakes. It offers some sweetness minus the high carbs of white sugar. You can also use this sweetener for baked goods. However, you might have to add some extra liquid since the sugar alcohol often soaks up moisture.


This natural sweetener originates from China. As the name suggests it was first used by monks. The main difference with this sweet fruit is much of the sweetness is from antioxidants instead of sugars.

Monk fruit might boost insulin release. This can help with controlling blood sugar levels. So it’s a good option for people with diabetes/prediabetes.

Monk fruit can be up to 250x sweetener than white sugar. It also has 0-calories/carbs, which makes it a healthy substitution for light brown sugar.

Substitution for Light Brown Sugar

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