There are lots of myths and claims flying around about sugar, and which is the best for you. Brown sugar is better than white because it’s, uh, brown? And therefore, must be healthier? With that logic, muscovado must be healthier still.
We also hear that unrefined sugar is best, because refined is bad. Coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey and agave syrup must be healthier because they’re natural, right? Some people opt for dates or other dried fruits to sweeten their home bakes – that’s got to be healthier than table sugar.
Well, I’ve got news for you: ALL sugar is natural, as it comes from plants. Whether that’s beets, cane, palm, or coconuts, your sugar derives from natural plants.
So, what is the healthiest type of sugar? Firstly, we should look at what sugar actually is, how this changes from type to type, and what this does to your body.
"What Is Sugar?"
Sugar is a generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, made up of blood-sugar-spiking molecules, such as glucose and fructose. It is these molecules that matter when it comes to sugar.
Glucose and fructose are readily available in sugars, whereas starchy carbohydrates are broken down into these molecules. Either way, you experience a glucose or fructose spike when they are consumed.
Sugar occurs naturally in plants, fruits, vegetables and nuts in varying quantities. Sugar (or sucrose, which is the chemical name) is most readily available in beets and cane, which is why these are the most common ‘types’ of sugar, as they can be extracted in greater quantities.
"What Happens When You Experience a Glucose or Fructose Spike?"
To be clear, your body doesn’t need sugar. We never needed it in our diet before, and we don’t need it now – especially in the quantities that we, as a society, are consuming it. In fact, consistently spiking your blood sugar is extremely damaging to your health.
When we eat sugar our body creates body fat, our hormones – especially our ‘hunger’ hormones – become imbalanced, inflammation occurs (which we know is terrible for our body in the long run), we experience energy crashes, we get more sugar cravings and, over time, our mental health deteriorates, our fertility reduces, we experience more signs of ageing and are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
"What Is The Healthiest Type of Sugar?"
It’s not surprising to believe that natural coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup is healthier than regular table sugar is healthier, because it’s ‘natural’, right? But, as I mentioned before, all sugar is natural. So, if this is the case, then what’s the difference between all the different types of sugar?
Absolutely nothing! When your body digests sugary foods, whether it contains honey or cane sugar, agave or maple syrup, coconut or muscovado sugar, sliced bread or ice cream, mango or Haribo, the end result will be the same: glucose and/or fructose spike. Your body doesn’t discriminate on types of sugar, it just knows that it is consumed sugar, and the internal processes that follows are the same.
This doesn’t mean ditch apples for appletiser – apples contain way more health benefits than ultra-processed foods and drinks that contain other harmful ingredients. It just means, enjoy your chosen sugar in moderation, and be mindful of the impact that this has on your body.
If you have a sweet tooth, it is even more important to be mindful of your sugar intake as there isn’t ‘free’ sugar when it comes to causing glucose spikes. Whilst high-glycaemic fruits might seem like a healthy snack, they might be giving you a similar spike to a portion of pick’n’mix. So, if you have had a banana as a healthy snack and then gorged on pick’n’mix later because you’ve only had a banana that day, you’re actually giving yourself double the glucose hit, without much protein to balance out that spike!
"Are You Saying That I Can't Have Any Sweet Foods?"
Not at all, also I never tell people what they can and can’t eat – I just try and educate so people can make informed decisions about what will benefit their health, and what won’t.
Plus, there are ways that you can reduce the glucose spike, by knowing the best times to consume certain foods and optimal food combining to ensure that you’re not getting a pure glucose hit.
For example, if you ate some processed chocolate alone on an empty stomach, you will experience a huge sugar spike. If you ate processed chocolate after a healthy, balanced meal and some moderate exercise, your spike would be considerably lower (but still a big spike, because processed chocolate has a LOT of sugar that is broken down quickly.
Another example is fruit juice. If you were to drink a glass of orange or apple juice, you will very quickly experience a blood sugar spike. This is because the juice is pretty much pure sugar in liquid form, and therefore super absorbable – you have removed all the healthy fibre. If you eat an apple or orange, you will not experience quite as big spike because the sugar takes slightly longer to be broken down and absorbed, and it is paired with fibre.
Protein is your secret weapon when it comes to reducing spikes from sugary foods. When sugar is combined with protein, the spike is considerably smaller. When you start the day with protein, your sugar cravings are considerably lower. When you eat enough protein with each meal, your blood sugar will be more regulated.
"The Daily Essential Formula is Deliciously Sweet, Does This Spike My Blood Sugar?"
Short answer: no. Not only does the Daily Essential Formula (DEF) contain 28g of organic pea protein which helps reduce sugar cravings, rebalance dysregulated blood sugar levels and lower the glucose/fructose spikes, it also doesn’t contain any sugar whatsoever.
Yet, the DEF still satisfies your sweet tooth! How? The answer is absolutely, certainly not artificial sweeteners. Whilst these avoid a glucose spike, they come with their own negative health implications.
The DEF is flavoured with natural vanilla extract and a natural sweetener called stevia. In the next post I will be talking more about sweeteners, including stevia.