In my previous blog post we covered the best and worst sugar substitutes, and in this article, I cover the #1 question I get asked about sugar.
‘What is the healthiest type of sugar?’
Many of you are probably already mindful of your sugar intake and have begun cutting back on ‘carbs’. I hate to break it to you, the truth is that sugar is sugar, and the source of the sugars make very little change to the impact on your carb intake.
With a plethora of choices on the market, I have rounded up the top categories or types of sugars to help guide your choices.
Here’s the thing: sugar in our modern food supply is super sneaky…because it’s in so many processed foods and labeled under different names, you might easily fail to recognize it as sugar or realize how much sugar is in the product.
Point in case, the product below contains four different types of sugar! (1)
Cruise around the supermarket aisle and take a minute to read some product labels, you might be absolutely shocked at all the different names for sugar, some not even recognizable as sugar!
61 Names for Sugar!
Classes of Sugars
Sugar is the generalized name for sweeteners from many sources. All are carbohydrates and are most commonly, monosaccharides or disaccharides depending on their chemical structure.
Monosaccharides are simple sugars.
Glucose is a natural compound found in plants and plant juices. Processors create Glucose syrup manufactured from starch for use in candies, baked goods, and processed foods.
Fructose or ‘fruit sugar’ is the sweetest type of sugar and is found naturally in fruits, cane sugar, some root vegetables, and honey. It is one of the components of common table sugar. It is perhaps the most commonly used sugar in a variety of processed food products.
Disaccharides are all ‘compound sugars’, formed by two monosaccharide molecules.
Sucrose is formed by a combination of a molecule of glucose and fructose. Sucrose is found in commercial table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets.
Maltose is formed when certain grains, most commonly malt, germinate. It is formed by two molecules of glucose; the most recognizable Maltose is malt syrup.
Lactose is a sugar naturally occurring in milk. It is formed by a molecule of galactose and a molecule of glucose. During digestion, these molecules are broken down by the digestive enzyme, lactase. Many adults lose this Lactase enzyme for reason unknown, hence ‘lactose intolerance.
Brown and white sugars, even raw sugars, have exactly the same impact on blood sugar, however the unrefined types of sugar are a better choice as they may contain more minerals and nutrients and certainly less chemicals than highly refined white sugar.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – I’m sure many of you are familiar with the debate raging over high fructose corn syrup. Since its introduction into the processed food market, obesity rates have skyrocketed.
Manufactured from corn, the processing separates the naturally found glucose and fructose. When consumed, fructose heads straight for the liver, literally switching on fat production, called lipogenesis.
This creates “fatty liver,” pre-Type II diabetes, and a host of other health issues
Critically, sugar is chemically addictive to the brain. Bottom line? Purge your pantry of all ingredients containing high fructose corn syrup and avoid it wherever possible
The Great Imposter
Agave- Derived from the sap of the Agave plant, agave is a type of sugar touted as being a healthy alternative. unfortunately, is has the same impact on the liver as high fructose corn syrup and is best avoided.
Healthier Choices…. Still Sugar!!
Life without sweeteners would be rather bland and a difficult call for the family, however, there certainly are better choices! Recommendation: try to select sugar in the most raw, unrefined form possible, and use in moderation.
Unrefined Sugars- Unrefined Cane Juice is the purest form, not to be confused with the more refined ‘Evaporated Cane Juice’. Sucanat and Rapadura are also better choices as they contain the molasses from the cane all the nutrients.
Honey- From local sources, “raw,” meaning never heated, unrefined honey is loaded with enzymes and nutrients found in plant pollens. Honey can have the same impact on blood sugar as refined sugars, so use in moderation
Maple Syrup– The concentrated sap from deciduous trees, it is brimming with trace minerals and contains 65% sucrose compared to 82% sucrose in table sugar. Look for Grade B maple syrup which is much less refined than Grade A.
Malted Grain Syrups- Made from malted grains, usually barley or brown rice, these sweeteners will not have the same intense sweeteners as table sugar, as they typically comprise 50% maltose, and small amounts of trace minerals.
Sorghum Syrup- Made from sweet sorghum, a grain related to millet, it is high in B Vitamins and iron and similar to maple syrup in sweetness.
Coconut Palm Sugar- Produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm, this is the latest ‘designer sugar’ to hit the health food world. It is minimally processed and brimming with minerals and B-vitamins; however, it contains around 70% sucrose and is still a type of sugar, so please use in moderation.