Natural Sugar Vs. Added Sugar


If you’re anything like me, you love your sweet treat of the day. 

Have you ever wondered if you are consuming too much sugar? I have always been curious about what science says about sugar, not just the media. 


Sugar takes many different forms in our diet. The sugar we think about most often is sucrose, also known as “table sugar,”[1]. Natural sugar is found naturally in foods like fruits (fructose) and milk (lactose) [2].


Added sugar is another form of sugar we hear about frequently. Added sugars can include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or other added sweeteners that can be added to your food during the preparation process or by yourself [1]. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration distinguishes added sugars like HFCS from fructose and glucose that is found in fruits and vegetables, even though their chemical make-up is the same[1].


Studies have shown that fructose is more harmful than glucose and can have negative effects on our bodies, including an increase in abdominal fat, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides[1].


Sources of added sugar can be soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, juices, ice cream, flavored yogurts, cinnamon toast, and creamer for your coffee [3].

Whole fruits and vegetables have natural sugars like glucose naturally found in these foods with no sugar added.


These whole fruits have fiber, which keeps us full and prevents us from overeating. The body must break down these cells before sugar is released into our blood. Therefore, allowing the blood sugar levels to rise at a much slower rate than when consuming foods with added sugar (i.e. orange compared to orange juice) [2]. Orange juice does hold the vitamins found in oranges. Still, the fiber content is usually filtered out or reduced when it is being processed. Therefore, fruit juices tend to raise our blood sugar quickly and then crash, making us hungry again. 

Keep an eye out for these names for “added sugars” on labels2:

  • Sugars ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)

  • Syrup

  • Sugar

  • Raw Sugar

  • Molasses

  • High-fructose corn syrup

  • Fruit juice concentrates

  • Corn syrup

  • Corn syrup

Some food products also include other terms that relate to sugar that are quite confusing[2]:

  • Sugar-free- less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving

  • Reduced sugar or less sugar – at least 25% less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size

  • No added sugars OR without added sugars- no sugars or sugar-containing ingredients such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing

“Healthy” foods can be high in sugar like breakfast bars made with “real sugar or cereals with “no high-fructose corn syrup[4]. However, even though sugars are not harmful in small amounts, we don’t need sugars to function properly. 

Too much sugar becomes a problem when we eat too much of the processed food, and they start to add up. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 100 calories (25g or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day and men 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day [2]. Keep in mind this varies depending on how active you are and other factors. If you want to learn more about how much sugar you should be eating per day speak with SYOA Nutritionist Scarleth. 

If you want to start small with reducing your sugar intake think about taking a short break from sugar [5]. Replace sugar with fruit in your breakfast or dessert or consider counting your sugar intake in a food journal or fitness app!


References


1. Natural and Added Sugars: Two Sides of the Same Coin. Science in the News. Published October 5, 2015. Accessed September 6, 2020. http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/natural-and-added-sugars-two-sides-of-the-same-coin/


2. Sugar 101. www.heart.org. Accessed September 6, 2020. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-101


3. Eggleston G. Positive Aspects of Cane Sugar and Sugar Cane Derived Products in Food and Nutrition. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Published online March 10, 2018. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.7b05734


4. SugarScience.UCSF.edu | Hidden in Plain Sight. Accessed September 6, 2020. https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.X1T65HlKjD5


5. The No BS Guide to Added Sugar. Healthline. Published June 21, 2019. Accessed September 6, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/added-sugar-natural-sugar-guide

fresh autumn yellow apples on wooden tab

Scarleth Castro,BA Nutritionist, Health & Fitness Educator

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