Is Sugar Really Just...Sugar?
Ever wonder the true difference between refined sugar and natural sugar? In this article, we discuss the key differences you should know before grabbing for your next break time snack.
When it comes to sugar in today's age, a lot of people run for the hills and avoid it at all costs. Most people don't even know that there are different types of sugar, let alone know what sugar actually is. Essentially, sugar is a carbohydrate that is converted into glucose, which is then stored for energy to keep you going throughout your day. Sugars can be found in many foods and believe it or not, our bodies rely on it. You can think of it as gas that goes in your tank!
Now the difference between sugars lies in its origin. The most well known of sugars is refined sugar, or "table sugar", which is heavily processed, as it is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets. This refined sugar is typically found as Sucrose, a complex sugar, which is comprised of Glucose and Fructose in a 1:1 ratio. The worst type of processed sugar is High Fructose Corn Syrup, which I am sure you are familiar with...unfortunately! If you have ever read an ingredient list, you probably noticed that it seems to be in most foods you find on the grocery store shelves today. You will even find it in foods that aren't considered to be "sweet". So, have you ever wondered why it seems impossible to get away from this stuff? The answer is simple. This chemically produced sweetener is ridiculously cheap to make and easy to implement into production of any food. With fat margins for the manufacture, it has become a staple in everything from ketchup to granola bars and even yogurt. It is hard to believe that the products made out to be healthy, are almost just as bad as the foods you have been eating all along. The worst offenders are "low fat" foods that load up on the sugar to compensate. Don't be fooled by the claim on the wrapper, take the time to look at the back of the package before you buy. You will be surprised how much you can find out from just a quick glance. Not only are these foods loaded with an excess in sugar, but usually offer little to no nutritional value.
The other origination of sugar is from natural sources which we simply call, "natural sugars". Natural sugar unlike refined sugar, is considered to be a "simple" sugar. Sources of these natural sugars are things like fruit, vegetables, milk, and even honey. The natural sugars found in milk are referred to as Lactose, and as Fructose in fruit. Here is where you will see that sugar isn't simply just...sugar. The body metabolizes sugar in fruit and milk differently than sugar that has been refined or extracted. Unlike the processed table sugar, which is broken down rapidly and digested quickly leaving you hungry, natural sugars are digested slowly which leaves you feeling full for longer. Natural sugars also are not subject to the spikes of insulin and in blood sugar levels that are a result of refined sugar digestion.
Fruit brings a whole lot more to the table than just fructose. It provides five essential nutrients required for optimal digestion, such as: vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and antioxidants. This laundry list of nutrients allows the absorption of the fructose to be slowed down greatly. This is why you will remain full for a longer period of time. Now, this doesn't mean go drink three glasses a day of your favorite juice. As juices are processed, they lose a lot of the nutrients that whole fruit has to offer. This is a big misconception when it comes to fruit juice, is that its made from fruit so it must be healthy.
So, refined sugars are going to leave you hungry no matter how much you eat. The nutrients are just not there to fill your stomach up. As sugar is extracted from the sugar cane, which is known as sucrose, it becomes a complex sugar that is absorbed in your body at a rapid rate, and lacks the nutrients found in natural sugar. Refined sugar is also responsible for skyrocketing levels of insulin and blood sugar. The worst type of processed sugar is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Also, avoid low fat foods as they load the food with sugar to compensate. Foods with this listed as an ingredient should be avoided, or at the least, consumed minimally. Natural sugar, which is a simple sugar, absorbs slowly due to its profile of essential nutrients needed for digestion, leaving you fuller for longer. Natural sugars can be found in fruit, vegetables, milk, and honey. All in all, like anything else, any type of sugar should be had within moderation. Even natural sugar should not be overdone. Keep the processed to minimum and you will be just fine!