It can seem overwhelming to look at a package and decide if it is healthy. The package tells you it is organic, low in sugar and natural, so it must be okay. Right?
These two words are often misleading and deceiving. Sugar is sugar.
All Sugar Isn’t the Same
When people talk about sugar they are referring to table sugar which has a high glycemic index and is 50% fructose. Raw sugar is the same thing, just less processed and brown sugar is white sugar with added molasses. High fructose corn syrup is deadly because it is not only manufactured but contains a fructose content of 55%. It is best to avoid these types of sugar whenever possible. If you see glucose-fructose on the label or organic cane sugar it is best to put it back or consume sparingly. Agave has been found to be between 55-90% fructose depending on the analysis. At one point high fructose sugars were considered to be better because they didn’t spike your blood sugar levels. Recent research has revealed that sugars high in fructose are worse because they are metabolized directly by the liver and when its glycogen stores are full the excess gets immediately stored as fat. The once loved agave nectar is now on the naughty list.
High fructose in the diet has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
What Sugars Are Best To Consume?
Learn which sugars would be the best ones to consume.
- Fruit – you can’t get much better than nature. Fruit is mainly fructose, but its blend of fibre and vitamins and minerals make this form of sugar the best kind for our body to consume. We still want to limit fruit consumption to those lower in fructose and aim for 1-2 pieces per day. The best fruits are berries and pitted fruits
- Stevia/Xylitol – These natural sweeteners have no caloric count, glycemic index or fructose making them great for the brain as they do not spike blood sugars. Remember we still want to consume sweet products in moderation
- Coconut Sugar – has some fibre, and minerals. It is great in baking as it is a direct substitute for regular sugar in recipes. However it is still about 40% fructose and still should be used in moderation
- Honey – contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While it is still sugar honey has said to have less negative effects on metabolism than regular sugar. Honey contains dextrose and fructose (which is broken down from sucrose by the bee’s digestion). The fructose content on honey varies greatly but is estimated to be on average 40%. Choose raw darker forms like buckwheat honey as they are shown to contain more antioxidants and a lower glycemic index
- Maple Syrup – contains minerals and a lower free fructose content than honey (although does have a higher sucrose)
- Molasses – Although molasses is about 50% fructose it offers the nutrients extracted in table sugar production: iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper and zinc.
The world of sugar has a lot of research and attention right now, and like most things it is constantly evolving. The main point is natural or not, sugar is sugar and we are consuming too much of it. If you use sugar, fruit and stevia/xylitol are best. If you need to use something other than that, the other 4 sugars listed are good alternatives….in moderation. Avoid cane sugar, agave and HFCS whenever possible.