For as long as we can remember, it seems like sugar has been deemed responsible for all of our health issues. Weight gain, bad teeth, skin breakouts, even gut health and immunity.
We wanted to take 5 to clarify the questions we get asked about sugar almost every day. Here at KOJA we strive to make health simple every single day. We do that with damn healthy snacks, and plenty of education. Read on!
- What is sugar?
Every time we eat a whole food containing carbohydrates, that component is broken down in the body into a compound called glucose, or more commonly known as, ‘sugar’. Glucose in the blood is immediately used for energy if required or is transported into other cells where it is stored to be utilised at a later time.
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates that we recommend consuming regularly are fresh fruit, starchy vegetables, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Sugar from these foods is absolutely imperative to survival. It is our brain and bodies preferred source of energy and the most efficient source too,
The type of sugar we are aiming to minimise in our diets is the hidden sugars found in processed foods that are refined and quickly absorbed in our body. When consumed in this concentrated form, it can be easy to overeat which may place an individual at risk of certain health conditions. Foods to minimise are lollies, cakes, highly processed snack bars, ice-cream and chocolate to name a few.
- Natural vs Refined – What’s the difference?
Natural sugars are naturally found in certain whole foods foods. These include compounds such as lactose (found in milk) and fructose (found in fruit) and are favoured over processed sugars.
Refined and processed sugars such as sugar cane, table sugar or glucose are highly processed and are commonly added in excess to processed and packaged foods.
If we isolate the sugar component, natural and added varieties of sugar are chemically identical. This means that the effect of consuming these sugars would be identical within the body, however it’s important to note that it’s much easier to over consume processed foods than whole foods.
When we consume natural sugars such as fructose and lactose which are found in fruits and dairy products, we are also consuming vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that are found within the whole food.
- What are all the names for hidden sugars?
The best way to check for hidden or excess sugars in packaged foods is to read the nutrition panel and check the grams per 100g. It’s also important to read the ingredients list, remembering there are over 57 names for sugar. Food companies will often add less familiar names of sugar into the ingredients list to trick you into believing that the product has no added sugars – cheeky!
Here’s a list of some of the different names for sugar to keep an eye out for:
- Golden Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Fruit Juice Concentrate
- What are the healthiest types of sugar?
Despite what you may have heard, all varieties of sugar contain the same or very similar amounts of calories per teaspoon. We definitely aren’t advising you to count calories (who’s got time for that!) but it is important to be educated and at the end of the day, consume the type of sugar that you most prefer and that aligns with your values and goals.
You may have even heard that certain sugars contains higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. Yes, this is correct, but if you are relying on sugar to meet your micronutrient requirements I think we have may have run ourselves into some trouble. Additionally, the quantity of sugar you would need to consume to receive any benefit would be well and truly outweighed by the negative effects of eating sugar in abundance.
- Low Carb Diets – do they work?
Low carb diets seem to be all the craze at the moment and are generally followed by individuals who intend to lose weight.
At the end of the day, there is no need to remove carbohydrates from your diet. What is more important to consider are the type of carbohydrates you choose to consume. Including healthy quantities of carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds and wholegrain are all sources of fibre which helps our gut to thrive, keeps us fuller for longer and contributes to prolonged and sustained energy.
Like we mentioned, the types of carbohydrates you may wish to limit are are those that are highly refined, overly processed and contain no nutritional value.
Carbohydrates are the bodies main energy source, therefore it is necessary to consume. Without it, our body relies on less efficient sources of energy such as fats which leaves us feeling fatigued, hungry and moody (not ideal!)
We recommend always prioritising natural sugars in whole foods, limit hidden sugars found in processed foods, eat in a way that makes YOU feel good and remember, there are a place for all foods in our diet no matter what. Knowledge is power!
Here at KOJA, we aren’t here to demonise sugar or hide behind misleading nutrition claims. Our natural peanut butter bars are sweetened with organic brown rice syrup and a touch of coconut sugar and contain no more than 1 teaspoon of sugar per bar! We are pretty happy with that.
Written by Millie Padula, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Nutritionist and Founder of Dietitian Edition