Natural sugar vs. Processed sugar: Is there any difference?

Sugar reduction is a hot topic now – particularly in the UK where you’ll notice a lot of brands sporting the “less than 100 calories” tag… blaring right in your face..front centre of the pack!

There is a lot of misinformation about nutrition and more so about sugar,  which is present in almost everything we eat. We hear a lot of people say “sugar is bad” but ironically, our entire body relies on sugar. Sugar comes in many different forms in food. Most natural foods: including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains, contain naturally occurring sugars or carbohydrates. Processed foods can contain naturally occurring carbohydrates plus added sugars.

Sugar can be broadly differentiated based on its source.

So are they the same or different?
In truth they are the same in a lot of ways and yet very different in many.

How they’re both the same:

Both natural sugar and processed sugar end up the same way in our blood stream. All sugars are made out of fructose and glucose. Fructose is processed in the liver, while Glucose breaks-up in the stomach and requires insulin to be released into the bloodstream in order to be metabolized quickly.  Sugar is simply a carbohydrate that is broken down for energy.

If you’re wondering which one is good- well, neither in excess!

How they’re both different:

Natural sugar (found in foods naturally, example: Pineapple) is packed along with other nutrients that improve our health; like: fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc. Processed sugar (found in processed food) mostly comes from sugarcane. This sugar is only a mix of glucose and fructose- that provides our boy with energy, but unfortunately, nothing beyond that! Remember the word empty calories? Yep, this is just that.

Our body processes both sugars differently. Since processed sugar has no fiber or any other nutrients with it to slow down the way it is absorbed, it mixes with our blood stream very quickly hence giving us a sugar rush (remember all the times the kids went cranky after nibbling on some cake or chocolate?). To combat the sugar rush, our body releases insulin,  removing sugar from the blood to tissues. This is when the body craves more sugar & the cycle goes on!
On the other hand, fiber and nutrients present along with the natural sugar in Fruits (& other food) slows down the absorption of fructose.

You’ll find some of the most natural sugars in Fruit- which are mostly also good sources of fibre which slows down the absorption of sugar to avoid sugar highs- further controlling cravings for more sugar.

Approximately 45% to 65%  of your diet should consist of sugars that are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains & dairy products. Therefore, do indulge in some sugar, but try and make natural sugar a part of your diet more than processed sugar.

Next time you have a sweet craving- reach out for some Dried Pineapple instead!

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