Like dark brown sugar, light brown sugar consists of refined white sugar with added molasses. Light brown sugar simply has less of it. Dark brown sugar contains 6.5 percent molasses, light brown sugar has 3.5 percent.
Sugar cane originated in the South Pacific and made its way to the Middle East by way of India. It would be discovered by crusading Europeans in the 11th century. Sugar would reach England for the first time in 1099.
When Christopher Columbus traveled to the New World, he would take sugar cane plants with him. In the tropical climate of the Americas that was similar to that of the South Pacific, the plants flourished and thus an industry was born. At this point in history, sugar cane was processed into raw sugar in sugar mills and brown sugars were born.
Raw sugar is still the starting point for the common types of sugar on grocery store shelves, including light and dark brown sugars as well as refined white sugar.
Raw sugar is light brown in color, but it is a different product from light and dark brown sugar in that it is unprocessed. Modern brown sugar is made from refined white sugar mixed with molasses. The amount of molasses in the mixture determines the shade of brown.
Light brown sugar flavor profile
Molasses is what gives light brown sugar its flavor, which is more complex than that of refined white sugar. Light brown sugar contains less molasses than dark brown sugar, which accounts for the paler color; it also results in a milder flavor. Molasses gives both types of brown sugar notes of caramel and toffee.
Health benefits of light brown sugar
Like dark brown sugar, light brown sugar does have traces of nutrients. These nutrients come from the molasses and include:
- B vitamins: Molasses contains small amounts of B vitamins including thiamine, niacin and pantothenic acid. Because it contains molasses, light brown sugar has these vitamins as well. While these vitamins are able to provide benefits that range from improving skin health to lowering cholesterol, the amounts in light brown sugar are too small to have any meaningful effects.
- Minerals: Molasses imbues light brown sugar with important minerals like phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Phosphorus and calcium are both important for maintaining healthy bones while magnesium helps to normalize blood pressure. As with the vitamins, the mineral content of light brown sugar is too low to provide any significant benefits.
- Carbohydrates: A single teaspoon of light brown sugar contains 4.5 grams of carbohydrates. In moderation, carbohydrates give you energy and can help to keep your digestive system healthy.
Light brown sugar is not useful for the treatment or prevention of any illnesses.
Because light brown sugar has even less molasses than dark brown sugar, its nutritional value is closer to that of refined white sugar. White sugar contains no nutrients aside from calories and carbohydrates. It is important to remember that the function of light brown sugar is to color and flavor foods, not to make them healthier.
Common uses of light brown sugar
Light brown sugar can be used interchangeably with dark brown sugar. Which you choose is simply a matter of your preference. Light brown sugar may be preferable in foods that need the caramel notes of brown sugar but where an excessively dark color may be undesirable. It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes as well as in recipes for barbecue sauces and for carrot cake.