Is Natural Sugar ‘Healthier?'
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
In reality there is no such thing as a healthy sugar. Your body can’t differ between organic, unrefined, or all-natural, it just sees it as sugar. No matter what type of sweetener you consume it will raise your blood sugar. Most types of added sugar are just different combination of monosaccharides glucose, fructose or galactose.
Natural sweeteners are not healthier than table sugar, our body will digest all sugars the same way as when there naturally in food or added. Agave, coconut sugar, honey, raw sugar, and table sugar are all broken into the same elements that deliver energy to our body. The problem with calling certain sugars “healthy” is the health halo effect, which gives people the license to eat more than we otherwise would (which can lead to overconsumption), because we feel less guilty if a product is promoted with "natural" sugar.
Sweeteners with syrup and nectar in their name may sound healthier than high fructose corn syrup but is that true? According to IFIC’s senior director of Nutrition Communications, Kris Sollid she says, “some people may believe exotic sounding sweeteners are better for them, but that’s not the case. Our bodies don’t prioritise sugars by their name or country of origin” (Sollid, 2019). But our bodies will process whole foods that contain natural sugars, like fruits and vegetables differently than a soda for example. Whole foods tend to contain more fiber than foods with added sugars, which helps reduce the impact on the amount of sugar in our bloodstream.
Sugar is sugar, with a few exceptions all sugars are nutritionally equivalent each provide four calories per gram and are metabolised in the same way (Insight, 2019). No sugar is superior, and avoiding sugar entirely is unrealistic, difficult, and won’t make you feel healthier instantly. Consuming sugar in large quantities will probably not make you feel very good, but instead of fearing sugar, become more aware of how much of it you eat, how it makes you feel, and why you are reaching for sugar.
Adams, Rebecca. “Sorry, But There's No Such Thing As A 'Healthy' Sugar.” HuffPost India. HuffPost India, December 7, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/healthy-sugar-sugars_n_5315969.
Insight, F. (2019, February 20). Are some sugars scarier than others? Retrieved from https://foodinsight.org/are-some-sugars-scarier-than-others/
Sollid, K. (2019, February 20). Sugars: What's in a Name? Retrieved from https://foodinsight.org/sugars-whats-in-a-name/