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Are all brown foods really healthier than white foods?

Last updated on January 27, 2018

Consumers are subliminally inundated with food messages that tell us brown is better. If you’ve ever compared the price of a dozen white eggs to a dozen brown eggs, for example, you’ll see a substantial price difference. A heightened price is one reason people believe there is more health value in brown food choices than in white, but is this assumption accurate?

True or False: Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar?

While no one will argue the degree of refining white sugar goes through, brown sugar is nothing more than white sugar with added molasses, which is a byproduct of sugarcane. It’s this molasses byproduct that gives brown sugar its distinctive color, taste and moist texture. The difference in brown sugars — light brown sugar versus dark brown sugar — is the amount of added molasses.

Brown sugar, however, is not the same as raw sugar, which is also brown. Raw sugar is a minimally processed residue from refined sugarcane, which is a naturally sweet tropical grass. When it comes down to nutrition calories and carbohydrates, all white sugar and all brown sugar contain comparable values per serving. This also holds true for other sweeteners such as syrups (corn, maple, high-fructose), agave nectar and powdered sugar, so replacing one sugar for another provides no benefit.

For calorie intake purposes:

1 tablespoon of white sugar contains 48 calories and 13 grams of carbs

1 tablespoon of brown sugar contains 52 calories and 13 grams of carbs

1 tablespoon of artificial sweetener contain 4 calories and zero carbs

True or False: Brown rice is healthier than white rice?

True! Brown rice is a whole grain product that includes the entire grain, while white rice has been highly processed and only contains part of the grain — the bran and germ are removed. Whole grain foods contain much higher levels of vitamins, minerals and fiber than processed white grain foods. Both white rice and brown rice contain comparable amounts of carbs and calories. On average, 1/3 cup of cooked rice has about 15 grams of carbohydrates, however, this will vary by brand. You can check the exact carb and calorie content of your chosen rice product by reading the label.

True or False: Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs?

False. According to Harvard Health Publications, there is zero nutritional difference between white and brown eggs. The variation in the color of the shells is due to the genetics and breeding of the hen that laid the egg, but there is no difference in the content of the egg in the way of flavor or nutrition.

You may be wondering then, about the color of the egg yolk. Is a darker yolk better than a lighter yolk? The answer is no. The color of the yolk is affected by what the hens eat. Hens that eat yellow corn or green plants, for example, tend to produce darker yolks. Regardless of its color, an egg is an egg and is a good source of iron and protein, while the yolk is where you’ll get vitamins A, B6 and D as well as calcium.

True or False: Brown chocolate is healthier than white chocolate?

True! Chocolate is made from cocoa, which is known for its antioxidant (phytochemicals) properties. To make edible chocolate, cocoa, which is bitter on its own, is mixed with sugar and cocoa butter to create a creamy texture. When it comes to white chocolate, however, white chocolate lacks these healthy antioxidant phytochemical properties that are found in dark chocolate because white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids. White chocolate is a confection of cocoa butter, milk and sugar with various flavorings.

For nutritional comparisons, both white and dark chocolate are equal in calories and saturated fat content, which is about 1.5 grams per ounce. On the bright side, the American Institute for Cancer Research says that white chocolate does not contain caffeine and can be a chocolate alternative for those extremely sensitive to caffeine.