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Are natural sugars better for you?

Mr Vitamins responds to a subject that is gaining weight - and to our article:  Sweeteners: the good, the bad and the scary...
Natural Sugar photo   Many people today are trying to avoid sugar to stop weight gain or prevent diabetes and perhaps you’re even one of them. But what sugars should you be avoiding? Obviously the processed white “added sugar” kind in soft drinks and cakes isn’t good for you but what about the so-called “natural sugars” or the ones that are naturally present in foods like honey or fruit? Are they better for you? The short answer is no. Not at all.

How does your body know what type of sugar you consume?

How does your body tell whether the sugar you’ve just eaten comes from a Tim Tam or a date? It doesn’t. Sugar is sugar is sugar - whether it's white sugar in a can of Coke, or fruit sugars in a date paste, your body will still have to process it, and for most of us that means needing more insulinand then getting more body fat!

 What about natural sweeteners?

 1)   Agave 

This is a good example of a bad food with a good reputation. Yes, it has a low GI (glycaemic index) – meaning that it doesn’t make your blood sugar levels spike in the same way that a teaspoon of sugar will - but the reason for that is that it's mostly fructose; the very same fructose which is known to cause:
  • obesity
  • fatty liver
  • insulin resistance
  • heart disease
While it’s true that you might get trace amounts of minerals with it, don't be fooled into thinking it is in any way better for you than normal white sugar. In fact, because it contains more fructose, it’s probably even worse.

 2)   Maple syrup 

Now maple syrup might sound lovely and healthy, given that it comes from a tree, but it’s 60% sugar, the same proportion of sugar in a Mars Bar! Would you melt down one of those and pour it on your breakfast? Hopefully not.

 3)   Dates 

This dried fruit is a common replacement for white sugar – in natural food bars and in baking. But look at these pictures: does it really seem like a good idea to eat dates when you look at them like this?

 What are the best natural sweeteners?

1)    Xylitol

Xylitol (pronounced zy – litol) is a naturally occurring substance found in corn, birch trees and some fruits and is one of the few sugars which won’t have a negative affect on your health simply because we don’t absorb it. Some people find that eating too much of it causes bloating and wind, but it won’t cause problems for your blood sugar and insulin levels. It tastes much the same as sugar so you can use it exactly as you would sugar in your favourite recipes. But be aware: because it doesn’t caramelise, your cakes won’t turn brown like they will when you use cane sugar.

 2)    Stevia

Stevia is a plant that contains chemicals that are 100 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need the tiniest amount. It can have a slightly bitter after-taste so is probably best to use small amounts in hot drinks rather than large amounts in baking.

Be Smart with Natural Sugar

I’m not suggesting it’s necessary for everyone to avoid all sugar all of the time, but the “naturally occurring sugar” argument is often flawed, and a common pitfall for people who are trying to look after themselves. Keep these tips in mind:
  1. Always look at nutrition information labels
  2. 5gm of sugars = one sugar cube
  3. Your body can’t tell where sugar comes from

The Weight Loss and Sugar Connection

For many people, one of the surest ways to manage body weight is to understand how sugar can be a problem in the body. Sugar causes insulin in the blood to go up. But if this natural body process is not working you can have what is called ‘insulin resistance’ and the sugar you consume can lead to more body fat!