Maybe you find yourself in the store, scanning over labels, looking for a treat you can eat that doesn’t have white sugar in it, or maybe you are trying to decide which juice to give your child, or maybe you heard that you should use honey instead of sugar because it is better for you.
But what about maple syrup, or fructose, or Turbinado, or raw sugar?
You may or may not know this, but the title is actually a trick question. In order to understand why it is tricky, though, we first have to take a little journey.
To answer the question about which natural sugar is best for you, you first have to understand exactly what makes something a sugar.
Sugars are carbohydrates. And as far as carbohydrates go, sugars are the most basic and simple that there are. Carbohydrates all have the unique property of being able to snap together simple carbohydrate molecules to form long chains of more complex carbohydrates.
Many of these simple sugar carbohydrates you probably know by name. You have probably heard of glucose or fructose, some of the simplest carbohydrates. A little more complex sugars sucrose (table sugar) is actually a glucose molecule attached to a fructose molecule.
Longer chains of carbohydrates consist of simply stacking together more and more simple glucose molecules, so when your body digests something like wheat bread, it simply pulls the glucose molecules off of the bread and absorbs them.
Okay, now that we know what a sugar looks like, let’s see what makes up both the natural and not-so-natural sugars that we eat:
Sucrose or table sugar: Sucrose (99%)
Maple Syrup: Glucose (trace), Fructose (trace), Sucrose (up to 80%)
Honey: Glucose (40%), Fructose (40%)
Fructose: Fructose (99%)
Turbinado: Sucrose (up to 99%)
As you can see, there is not much difference in any of these sugars. What maple syrup, honey and Turbinado sugar have that white table sugar doesn’t have is extra vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup is high in iron, zinc and a few other trace minerals.
But here is the question you need to ask yourself: are those small amounts of vitamins and other nutrients worth what happens when you eat those sugars?
Let’s take a look at what happens when you eat these simple carbohydrates.
To your body, there is no difference if you are eating honey, white sugar, maple sugar or high fructose corn syrup; they all cause a similar rise in blood sugar. So while you may feel good about eating a snack bar with honey in it, or giving your child fruit juice instead of soda, to your body, there is no difference. For example, a typical glass of juice contains about 35-40 grams of sugar, which is the exact same amount of sugar in a soda can.
While it may seem trivial that you or your children are consuming large amounts of sugar, your body feels far different. High amounts of sugar in the body are linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and even heart disease and other diseases. While there is currently no medical or governmental association who would tell you that eating simple carbohydrates is bad for you, they are wrong. There is mounting evidence that these powerful, high octane simple carbohydrates do damage to your body.
So, which is the best natural sugar for you to eat? The answer is there are no good sugars for you to be eating. While there are trace amount of vitamins and minerals in so-called natural sugars, they really don’t provide a good enough reason to be putting very concentrated carbohydrates into your body.
To be sure, staying away from sugars is a hard thing to do. We are all addicted to sweet tastes. Taking small steps and removing as many sweets from your diet will go a long way toward ensuring that you live a long and healthy life.