The ‘Scoop’ on Sugar

01/11/2018

Nutritionists often tell consumers to read labels to avoid sugars.  But that may be easier said than done because sugar comes in so many forms and names.  To help the "read the label" process, here is a list of sugars, their names and their makeup.  

  • Saccharide = sugar

  • Glucose (aka “dextrose” or “grape sugar”), galactose (“milk sugar”), and fructose (“fruit sugar”) are all “monosaccharides” (i.e. single sugar molecules), known as “simple sugars.” The primary difference between them is the way your body metabolizes them.

Glucose is a form of energy you were designed to run on. Every cell in your body uses glucose for energy.

High amounts of fructose are very damaging to the body if it isn’t burned immediately for energy because it travels directly to the liver where it’s converted to triglycerides (fats). Excess triglycerides increase insulin resistance (and insulin production), thus contributing to diabetes in a “back door” fashion.

The simple sugars can combine to form more complex sugars, like sucrose (“table sugar”) which is a “disaccharide” comprised of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

  • “Refined” white sugar (pure sucrose) is washed with a syrup solution, then with hot water, clarified (usually chemically) to remove impurities, decolorized, concentrated, evaporated, re-boiled until crystals form, centrifuged again to separate, then dried. By this point, any remnants of “natural goodness” and “nutritional value” have completely disappeared! Quite frankly, white sugar should be considered an “industrial product” rather than “food.”

  • “Brown sugar” is white sugar mixed with molasses.

  • “Raw” sugar is not really raw. It has been cooked, and most of the minerals and vitamins are gone. But it’s probably a little better than refined white sugar because it has a little of the molasses remaining.

  • Aspartame or AminoSweet is a neurotoxic rat poison.

  • Splenda (sucralose) is NOT a sugar, despite its deceptive marketing slogan, “made from sugar.” It’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame.

  • Honey is approximately 50% fructose, but in natural (raw and unpasteurized) form contains many health benefits. Buying honey that is local and unpasteurized is best.

  • Stevia is an extremely sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form). Green stevia is the whole plant, while white stevia is processed and can often contain other ingredients like natural flavors or dextrose − a form of sugar. 100% organic green stevia in its natural state is what you want.

  • Agave nectar is made from the agave plant, which is a cactus. Sounds natural, right? Like maple syrup from a tree, or honey from a beehive. Only it isn’t. Agave is HIGHLY processed while the end product does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant. Furthermore, agave is approximately 80% fructose (much higher than honey and maple syrup).

  • HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It is mostly genetically modified. Stay away!

  • Rapadura is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane (using a press), which is then evaporated over low heat, whilst being stirred with paddles, then sieve ground to produce a grainy sugar. It has not been cooked at high heats or spun to change it into crystals, and the molasses is maintained in the sugar. “Sucanat” is the USA trade name for Rapadura.

  • Coconut sugar is made from the sweet watery sap that drips from the cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It has a low glycemic index (GI) and is rich in amino acids. It is typically less than 10% fructose, with sucrose being the primary component.

  • Xylitol is a sweetener known as a “sugar alcohol” (or polyol). Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols − they are carbohydrates (with structures that happen to resemble sugar and alcohol). Xylitol is extracted from corn or birch cellulose. Unlike sugar, Xylitol is slowly absorbed, does not cause a rapid blood sugar increase, and does not require an immediate insulin response from the body to be metabolized. Moreover,  many studies have shown that it actually helps prevent dental cavities, ear infections, and some evidence suggests that it helps prevent gum disease because Xylitol is anti-bacterial. However, Xylitol does have some potential health side effects (most notably gastrointestinal issues) and should be used with caution.

-Original Publish Date: May 2017

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