Hopefully this post will help you to understand the difference between natural and processed sugars and why natural sugars may not be as healthy as they seem.
Fructose is the sugar compound that we are most concerned with. Research has shown it contributes to fat storage, particularly around the tummy and vital organs, it is addictive, and makes us eat more. It also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
So let’s start with the easy stuff; Table sugar
So table sugar that white stuff you put in tea, you buy in kilo bags in the supermarket. Scientifically speaking this sugar is composed of glucose and fructose. Roughly 50% of a teaspoon of sugar is fructose. Table sugar is highly processed and refined causing a spike in blood sugars. So what about brown sugar? Unfortunately this sugar is no healthier or more natural. It is simply sugar which has had molasses (another sugar!) added to it!
Honey has been around for thousands of years, it is now commercially farmed and readily available. Honey in it’s raw state has some health benefits. Honey has antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal, antibacterial and prebiotic properties! However to experience these benefits it generally has to be eaten in large quantities. It can also be processed by pasteurisation and this is usually how we buy it in the supermarket. Honey is approximately 40% fructose.
Some people believe this is the national food of Canada. This liquid sweetener is made from the sap of the maple tree. Like honey this is made up of 40% fructose. It does have other nutrients for example manganese which is important for blood pressure, bone help and supports immunity.
There has been a lot of hype about this natural sweetener lately. I even found it in Glenisk vanilla yogurt! So is it healthier? Agave is 90% fructose and contains more calories than ordinary sugar. It is highly processed and a random interesting fact is extracted from the same succulent as tequila! This sweetener is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar so no wonder it’s found its way into commercial products! More on why Agave isn’t your friend later on in the week!
This is made from the sap of flower buds from the coconut palm. It is very popular in Asian cuisine. This natural sweetener is composed of 38-48% fructose. It is lower on the Glycaemic Index and so maybe perceived as healthier.
This is a common sweetener among the health community looking to reduce or eliminate refined sugar from diets and recipes. However dates are a high fructose fruit and by drying them you remove water and other nutrients essential to slow down the absorption of the fructose. Dates are composed of 30% fructose, remember that the next time a recipe requires 20 of them!
This is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is calorie free and free from fructose. It is believed that this natural sugar may be the Holy Grail of sweeteners. However the long term effects of stevia has not been researched.
I think we should limit all sweeteners, natural, artificial and refined. All sugar in high amounts is bad for fat gain, blood sugar swings and problems with insulin sensitivity. Try to limit sweet treats to treats on special occasions and not everyday. Instead use foods such as nuts, spices, coconut and sweet potato to sweeten foods. This is a guaranteed way to have your cake and eat it to!
Stay healthy X