Overview, Nutrition, and How It Compares

Overview, Nutrition, and How It Compares


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Rapadura sugar is a solid form of unrefined cane sugar typically produced and consumed in Latin American and Asian countries.

Unlike other types of sugar, rapadura is not refined. Thus, it has a high molasses content, which gives it its characteristic caramel-like color.

This article reviews rapadura sugar, including its nutrients, culinary properties, and how it compares with other types of sugar.

Rapadura sugar is a type of brown cane sugar that’s high in molasses.

It’s also known as unrefined non-centrifugal sugar (UNCS) because it’s not centrifuged to remove its molasses — as is the case with white sugar.

It’s produced by crushing sugar cane stalks to extract the juice, which is then evaporated in open pans. This increases its sugar concentration and viscosity, creating a type of sugar cane honey or syrup.

The sugar cane syrup is then poured into molds and cooled to give it its characteristic solid block shape, allowing for better handling, storing, and stacking (1).

It may also be vigorously whipped in a stainless-steel bowl to produce a granulated version.

Rapadura sugar is known under various names in different countries. In fact, rapadura is what people call it in Brazil.

Other common names include kokuto in Japan, jaggery in the Philippines, gur in India, panela in Colombia, piloncillo in Mexico, chancaca in Honduras, and tapa de dulce in Costa Rica.

Rapadura sugar is roasted-flavored with a caramel or orange-brown color — though its color may be affected by the sugar cane variety, soil quality, temperature, and chemical composition, among other factors (1).

Summary

Rapadura sugar is made by evaporating sugar juice without removing its molasses. It’s usually sold in solid form and has a caramel color and roasted flavor.

Rapadura sugar provides about 4 calories per gram — the same number of calories as white sugar (2, 3).

However, it contains a higher mineral content than regular sugar, containing potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and iron (4, 5).

Research suggests it may contain several antioxidants, including phenolic compounds and flavonoids, which help fight harmful molecules called free radicals (4, 5).

Still, you’d have to consume high amounts of rapadura sugar to meet your daily needs for these minerals and take advantage of its antioxidant properties. Doing so increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cavities (6).

Summary

Rapadura sugar contains the same number of calories as white sugar but has a higher mineral and antioxidant content. However, given that it’s just another type of sugar, it should still be consumed in moderation.

Rapadura sugar is mostly used to prepare beverages by dissolving it in hot water. It may be enjoyed hot or cold.

In some cases, milk is added, as well as lemon juice, lemon or orange zest, cinnamon, clove, or ginger, depending on the local tradition or your personal preference.

Rapadura sugar is also used to sweeten other beverages, such as coffee, chocolate, or tea.

It’s often used to make desserts and candy or as a white sugar substitute at a 1:1 ratio, meaning that you may substitute white sugar for the same amount of rapadura sugar.

However, you can expect a different color, texture, or flavor in your final product.

You may also use it to prepare sauces, glazes, dressings, and marinades.

Summary

Rapadura sugar is typically dissolved in hot water and consumed as a hot or cold drink. It may also be used as a sugar substitute and to make desserts or candy.

There are plenty of sugar varieties on the market. Here’s how rapadura sugar compares with white sugar and other similar alternatives.

White sugar

White sugar, also known as granulated or table sugar, is the most traditional and popular form of sugar.

Unlike rapadura sugar, white sugar undergoes a refining process that includes clarification and centrifugation, a process in which sugar is spun at a high speed to separate it from the molasses and form the sugar crystals (7).

By completely removing the molasses, the refining process gives table sugar its white color.

Still, it strips it from the nutrients found in molasses, such as antioxidants and iron, which are kept in rapadura sugar (8, 9).

White sugar has a milder flavor than rapadura sugar. Though both may be used interchangeably in recipes, white sugar is preferred for those that call for a more polished finish, such as meringue.

Brown sugar

Though rapadura sugar is also brown, what’s commercially known as brown sugar is refined brown sugar, which is basically white sugar with some molasses added back to it.

Therefore, unlike rapadura sugar — which is unrefined — brown sugar undergoes the same processing as white sugar.

Both brown and rapadura sugar have a grainy texture, although brown sugar is more crystallized.

Additionally, while they’re both brown colored, brown sugar has a lighter shade due to its lower molasses content.

Demerara and muscovado sugar

Demerara and muscovado sugar are very similar to rapadura sugar because they all undergo very little processing and retain their molasses content.

Both types of sugar are produced by evaporating sugar cane juice.

However, demerara sugar is then boiled, cooled, and left to harden, while muscovado is ground to produce a more powdery sugar.

Still, they’re all different in texture. Demerara sugar consists of larger, dry grains, while muscovado is moist and sticky.

Nevertheless, much like rapadura sugar, they’re also deemed to have a higher nutritional quality than white sugar (10).

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is another unrefined brown sugar alternative.

However, unlike rapadura sugar, which comes from sugar cane, coconut sugar is made from the coconut plant’s sap, a sugary fluid that circulates the palm (10).

Like rapadura sugar, coconut sugar contains several nutrients, including iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and antioxidants (10).

Summary

Rapadura sugar differs from table and brown sugar in processing and nutritional quality. It’s similar to other unrefined sugar options, such as demerara, muscovado, and even coconut sugar.

While rapadura sugar may have a higher nutritional quality than table sugar, it’s still an added sugar. As such, it should be consumed in moderation.

It’s widely known that excessive sugar intake may lead to obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and heart disease (6, 11, 12, 13).

Additionally, research in children has shown that high added sugar intake may hinder growth and development due to a lack of nutrients (14).

The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines advise limiting your sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily calories (15).

Summary

Rapadura sugar is still an added sugar. Thus, it’s best to limit your intake.

Rapadura sugar is a type of unrefined non-centrifugal sugar derived from sugar cane juice. It’s similar to demerara and muscovado sugars.

It has a brown color and roasted flavor because its molasses isn’t removed during processing. This is also the reason for its higher nutritional quality, compared with white sugar.

However, rapadura sugar is still an added sugar. Therefore, you should limit its intake.



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