Your Final Information to Sugar

Agave. Coconut sugar. Molasses. Brown rice syrup. It’s enough to make you wonder what ever happened to stale white sugar? It seems like the sweetener options are multiplying and becoming more confusing by the day. Between digging through food labels and navigating recipes, it’s hard to know which sugars are the healthiest and which ones to avoid.

Learn about the science, advantages, and disadvantages of some common sugars.

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“There are about 60 different names for sugar on a nutrition label – nectars, cane juice, syrups, honey and maltose to name a few,” says Susan Stalte, RD LDN. “There is no doubt that it is overwhelming.”

According to Stalte, these different sweeteners differ in their glycemic index (how quickly they affect blood sugar) and the amount of fructose. These factors determine how our body processes them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting added sugar to 6 to 9 teaspoons per day, or no more than 10 percent of total calories from added sugar. Given that a single can of soda contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, most Americans eat 19 to 20 teaspoons of sugar a day.

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“In such an excess, sugar is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic inflammatory diseases,” says Toni Fiori, RDN. “Because of these health concerns, it is important to consider the various sugars that lurk in many of our daily foods.”

What’s in a name?

Fiori shares the science, pros, and cons of some of the most common sugars you’ve likely encountered in a protein bar, paleo recipe, or packaged food:

High fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is made from corn that has been first made into corn starch and then into pure corn syrup. Since pure corn syrup is made entirely from the simple sugar glucose, it is not sweet enough for use in food production. Food manufacturers add enzymes to corn syrup to convert roughly half of the glucose to fructose, another simple sugar that is much sweeter. It’s used in highly processed junk foods because it’s cheaper and sweeter. Basically, your body absorbs the glucose and the fructose is passed on to the liver to produce fat.

Coconut sugar. This comes from the sap of the coconut palm and contains inulin, an indigestible fiber that helps you fill up without providing any calories. Inulin supports probiotic bacteria, which is good for your gut health. On the other hand, inulin can cause digestive problems (gas and flatulence) in some people.

Pure maple syrup

Pure maple syrup. It’s also a natural, more complex source of sugar with some traces of vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup contains more glucose than fructose and is therefore easy to absorb similar to table sugar in most people. Warning: Since it’s not as viscous as honey or agave, it’s easier to consume in large amounts.

Brown rice syrup. This sugar is made from the starch in brown rice. It is essentially concentrated glucose and has no more nutrition than regular sugar. Ready meals (muesli bars, muesli, etc.) are added.

agave

Agave. While agave has similar nutritional benefits to honey, it has a lower glycemic index, which means it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly. This makes it a better choice for diabetics. Agave contains even more fructose than honey, which can lead to abdominal discomfort.

Honey. Honey is more complex than sugar and contains fructose and glucose. However, it also contains some minerals, vitamins and amino acids. It also contains natural antioxidants that support our health. Because it’s much sweeter than table sugar, it takes less to sweeten things up. It contains more fructose than glucose. For those who cannot tolerate or absorb fructose well, honey can cause symptoms of diarrhea and gas.

molasses

Molasses. This is a by-product in the production of sugar. The darker the molasses, the more concentrated the nutrients. Molasses contains more vitamins and minerals than any of the other sweeteners listed that contain B6, calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Because of its bitter taste, it is more suitable for baking.

Table sugar. Its real name is sucrose (glucose and fructose) and it is used quickly by your body. In addition to energy / calories, sugar offers no other health benefits. so in excess it is stored as fat.

Look at labels

When it comes to reading labels, Stalte warns consumers not to be fooled by the term “natural” or “organic” – of course, organic can be a good option if this is important to the individual, but she says sugar is sugar.

Fiori warns that sweeteners are hiding in many places, including yogurt, crackers, spices, and dried fruits. Sneaky names for sugar include anything that ends in ‘-ose’:

  • Sucrose (table sugar)
  • Lactose (natural sugar in dairy products)
  • Maltose (natural sugar in starch, like bread)
  • Dextrose (simple sugar made from corn that is chemically identical to glucose)
  • Glucose and fructose (the little sugars that make up sucrose / lactose / maltose)
  • Monosaccharides and disaccharides (the blanket name for all ‘-oses’)
  • Syrups (corn, brown rice, etc.)

“It’s important to know that every one of these sweeteners is okay every now and then, considering that evidence-based research on monitoring daily sugar intake of all kinds continues to grow,” says Stalte.

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