Just a little blurb on sugar formation and antioxidants I thought everyone would find interesting if you don't already know! Most refined sugar is produced from the sugar cane plant in tropical and subtropical locations, some can come from the sugar beet.
The sugar cane plant has concentrated amounts of Sucrose in the stalk, which is harvested for sugar production. When the cane is crushed, the sucrose-rich juice is clarified and boiled to a thick syrup then allowed to crystallize into what we know as Turbinado Sugar.
Refined White "Table" Sugar:
That Turbinado sugar is then refined by removing color and nonsugar components. Molasses is a byproduct of this refinement.
The turbinado sugar is refined just as above white sugar is. Then, the molasses (3.5% and 6.5% for light and dark brown sugar) is added back to the refined white.
The good thing about the refined white turned into brown sugar: Molasses has a high antioxidant level compared to white sugar on its own. So when its added back to it, you have higher antioxidant levels in the brown sugar even though it was refined.
Maple Syrup is produced from the clear sap of the (maple) tree, which is boiled and concentrated to yield what is known as Maple Syrup. Maple Syrup contains mostly sugar, but also contains vitamins and minerals such as notable amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and thiamin ( thiamin is a B-vitamin essential for energy!) Maple syrup also contains phenolic compounds, aka antioxidants.
Honey is a produced by bees from the nectar of flowers that is partially digested and regurgitated into the hive and stored in the honeycomb, where evaporation concentrates the sugars. Most honey available in the US is refined and comes from the clover. However, since the nectar source varies the antioxidant level varies as well in honey.
This has a very low antioxidant level, which is surprising given the recent craze for it. It is produced from the sap of a desert succulent, the heart of the agave plant. The filtered juice from the hearts is heated or enzymatically treated to hydrolyze the complex carbohydrates ( mainly fructans) to sugars, filtered, then concentrated to a syrup. It gains its popularity now despite being low in antioxidants like white sugar, because it has a low glycemic index. It is still being researched for containing non-antioxidant nutrients, trace elements, and phytochemicals.
This is made by grinding dried dates into a coarse powder. It possess the nutrient profile of dates, with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. It's use may be limited because it does not dissolve in liquids and contains 30-50% nonsugar components that may interfere with the physical properties needed in baking.
Why should we care about antioxidants ?
Antioxidant rich foods (a few include pomegranates, blueberries, berries and nuts) can reduce the risk of developing oxidative stress-related disease ( i.e cancer and heart disease).
This information was from The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, January 2009 issue. The article is titled Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar, p. 64- 71.