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Are All Sugars The Same?

Is sugar inherently bad or not? The answer is not black and white. While excessive sugar consumption has its unwanted effects, sugar itself is not the culprit. It's the quantity and the form in which we consume it that matters. Let's dive into this!


Brown sugar cubes

What do we mean by "sugar"?

Firstly, it's worth clarifying what sugar exactly is. It's a collective term and a somewhat simplified expression since different types of sugars fall under this category. Table sugar, for instance, is produced from sugar beets, sugarcane, or maple tree sap during food processing. It consists of 99.7% sucrose, formed by the combination of two simple sugar molecules: glucose (grape sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). It's called "table sugar" because, at home, we use it in crystal and powdered form for sweetening and flavoring. As an alternative term, it can also be synonymous with added sugar.


What is added sugar?

When you're shopping in-store or online and read (you do read, right?) the labels and ingredient lists of products, you often come across the magical phrase "does not contain added sugar." What does this mean exactly? Added or free sugar refers to the sugar added to foods, beverages, and meals by manufacturers during food production and by consumers (that could be you) during consumption. The former can be, for example, the sugar content in chocolate, biscuits, pudding, fruit yoghurts, and soft drinks, while the latter could be the sugar added to tea, coffee, cocoa, or desserts.


Brown white sugar types

How do manufacturers indicate added sugar on the packaging?

Sugar can be found on ingredient lists under various names. Therefore, if you want to reduce your (added) sugar intake, especially due to conditions like diabetes or insulin resistance, pay attention to terms like sucrose, glucose, fructose, fruit sugar, lactose, glucose-fructose syrup, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, honey, cane sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), invert sugar, starch syrup, molasses, maple syrup! All of these are sources of sugar and contribute to the total carbohydrate intake.


💡 Tip: Before drastically reducing your sugar and, consequently, carbohydrate intake because you feel the need to, consult with your doctor or dietitian, as it might be unnecessary, and too few carbohydrates can also cause health issues!


Where can you find added sugar?

Added sugar can be present not only in obviously sweetened products but also in those where you might not initially think it has been sweetened. And small amounts add up!


Added sugar can be found in, among other things:

  • sugar-sweetened soft drinks, colas, iced teas, fruit drinks, nectars, syrups

  • dairy drinks (cocoa, coffee, caramel milk), dairy desserts (pudding, yogurt, cream cheese)

  • plant-based milk substitutes with added flavors

  • store-bought vegetable sauces, ketchup

  • some preserves, canned goods, jams

  • instant oatmeals, flavored commercial cereals, cereal bars

  • biscuits, chocolates, wafers, candies, packaged desserts, pastries


Is there sugar without additives?

Indeed, there is, and that's precisely why the story is not entirely black or white. Natural sugars refer to those sugars that were originally present in fruits, fresh 100% fruit juices, milk, and other foods.

Fruit sugar, also known as fructose, is an example of this: fruits owe their natural sweet taste to it. This sugar is different and better than, say, table sugar (crystal or powdered), as it is not consumed on its own; the fiber content of fruits is also present, making its effects more favorable.

However, when it comes to processed foods containing fructose that counts as added sugar, it's advisable to be more mindful of moderation.


white sugar on spoon

So, should you be afraid of sugar?

Not every product, food, or ingredient that contains sugar should be avoided. Surely you wouldn't give up your favorite summer fruits just because of this, right? Moreover, in certain cases, it can be beneficial for something to have a high sugar content. For instance, before or during exercise, gardening, hiking, trekking, or physical work, having something with a higher sugar content can be beneficial. Even in such cases, it's preferable to aim for a more natural form. For example, instead of plain glucose tablets (which would be absorbed the fastest and have the quickest effect), 100% fruit juice, fruit puree, dried fruits, or fruit bars made from dried fruits could be advantageous. Similarly, if you suddenly feel unwell due to, for instance, not having eaten for a long time, and your blood sugar level has dropped (this is called hypoglycemia), consuming something sugary like a soft drink, fruit juice, or the mentioned fruit products can help you quickly stabilize your condition and feel better. This is a kind of rapid first aid, but it doesn't replace a balanced, varied diet in the long run.


What makes Secontaste granola sweet?

After considering the above, a valid question might be, what sweetens Secontaste Brewer’s Granola made from upcycled spent brewer's grains? Is it sweetened with sugar or sweeteners? No, it is sweetened with date syrup, but more on that later.


secontaste cherry brewers granola upcycled

Before that, I will also share information about carbohydrates and the glycemic index, as understanding these concepts helps both the healthy and those with diabetes or insulin resistance better understand the connections in their diet.

 

Judit Schmidt is a dietitian, health educator, and workplace well-being program manager. She is engaged in prevention, education, and background work related to health, well-being, and nutrition. She conveys knowledge on nutrition, health, and well-being through article writing, blogging, editing, proofreading, and creating professional texts on these topics. Additionally, she conducts informative presentations for companies and schools. Her main focus is on disease prevention and creating a balanced and sustainable diet. Her motto is "the sunny side of food."

Judit presents her profession and works in a personal, occasionally humorous style on various social media platforms under the name Youteefool.

 

You can find Judit on her website:

On Facebook: Youteefool

And on Instagram: Youteefool




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