Are all sugars bad for you? It’s a question that I’m asked a lot by my nutrition coaching clients. Many people are aware that fruit has fructose, a type of sugar in it, and have stopped eating this healthy food.
The Topic of Sugar is Confusing
Eating too much sugar is a problem-one that most Americans, unfortunately have. But if you’ve decided to cut back, you’re faced with some choices:
· Should you swap sugar in your morning bowl of oatmeal for honey, or is that the same thing?
· Does baking with coconut sugar make a treat healthier?
· And if you resolve to quit sugar all together, does that include fruit?
Sugar is a pretty hot topic in the nutrition world and many people have strong feelings about which sweeteners to use and how much (or little) to consume.
Are All Sugars Bad for You?
One of the biggest questions is whether naturally occurring sugars in foods like raspberries, beets, milk or maple syrup are digested the same as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor at EatingWell, says the answer isn’t as black-and-white as you might think.
· Technically, all the sugar we eat is broken down into glucose in our body and gets processed the same way
· Your body essentially processes natural and added sugars in the same way, but there are a few key differences.
· Natural sugars-found in foods like whole fruit and dairy products-are being consumed with other essential nutrients.
· Dairy, for example, also contains protein and calcium, while fruit has fiber and Vitamin C.
· Both the protein and fiber help to slow down the digestive process, preventing those blood sugar spikes and dips you might experience after eating a piece of cake or your favorite candy bar, which is likely to have more sugar and fewer other nutrients.
· Foods containing added sugars typically have a higher overall sugar content than fruit and dairy products, increasing your chances of eating too much and crashing even more.
· If you add a bit of honey to plain oatmeal, you probably won’t add as much as you would get if you bought a sugary flavored oatmeal packet.
· Added sugars tend to add up faster, making it easier to eat them quickly-and consume too much.
Are Natural Sugars Better than Granulated Sugar?
However, when it comes to natural sweeteners like agave, honey and maple syrup-which don’t have fiber or protein to balance them out-your body will likely process them the same as other kinds of added sugar.
“Some sweeteners, like maple syrup and honey, do have mild antioxidants and beneficial health properties,” says Valente. But, she cautions, you’d have to eat such large amounts for it to make a difference that the resulting sugar spikes wouldn’t be worth it. “If you’ve banned refined sugars from you diet but eat a lot of maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar, you may not be doing your body any favors.”
The Bottom Line on Sugars
Valente says most of us don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables-and there are plenty of reasons to consume high-quality dairy on a regular basis-so she’s not at all concerned with dairy or fruit-related natural sugar intake.
What we really need to be concerned about is all the added sugars lurking in foods we don’t consider “sugary,” like salad dressings, bread, condiments and granola bars. And though you may love using maple syrup in baking, it won’t turn your brownies into a health food. But that’s O.K.-they’re brownies after all!
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