By this point, most of us have heard that it is important to avoid sugar in our diets if we want to be healthy. However, not all sweet flavors are created equal. There are differences between added and natural sugar and they are quite important. The reason is that they don’t all create the same effect within our bodies.
The differences between added and natural sugar are sizeable and as you work to cut sweet foods from your diet, it’s a good idea to know them, first. This way, you won’t make things harder on yourself than they need to be.
The World Health Organization recently recommended that the average adult should try to keep their daily added sugar intake to a maximum of 25 grams, which is the equivalent to 6 teaspoons. However, if you don’t know the differences between added and natural sugar that can feel nearly impossible.
It is important to note that the sugars that you find occurring naturally within whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and even dairy don’t count in that WHO recommended limit. Those are typically considered fine and don’t pose any health threat to the average healthy adult. However, the added sugars, that is, those that have been used as an ingredient in foods and drinks, are a different story. These are used either to make food sweeter or to boost its shelf life.
What makes it difficult to avoid those sugars is that they can be found on ingredients labels under about 60 different names. It’s a good idea to get a copy of the names by which sugar can be identified in an ingredients label. Keep it with you so you can consult it when you read product labels at the supermarket. Over time, you’ll actually become familiar with most, if not all, the names so you won’t need to consult the list anymore.
The reason this step is important is that many of the names actually sound as though they are healthy ingredients, when in fact they’re no different from white sugar when it comes to our body’s reaction to it. After all, if you read “evaporate cane juice” in an ingredients list, it sounds like a healthy, natural ingredient when it is in fact a sugar.
The reason natural and added sugars are different is in the way they are processed by the body. In fruit, for example, fructose is found within fiber. Fiber slows down the metabolism of the sugar and reduces its impact on the body as a whole. The insulin spike isn’t the same as when sugar, maple syrup or honey has been added to a processed food product such as juice, a granola bar or spaghetti sauce.