Is sugar really the devil?

Everyone has some opinion about sugar, and as more information and misinformation circulates in the media and across the social media platforms, it becomes really difficult to have a clear idea about it.

So here’s some facts, and I’ll let you make up your mind.

(1) Added sugars are EXACTLY the same as natural sugars

This one may seem surprising. Yes, the sugar in a lolly is no different from naturally-occurring sugars. And in fact, your body has no way of differentiating between the two kinds. So if the sugars found in fruit and milk and sweets are the same, why is fruit considered good for you and sweets are not?

Fibre! The fibre found in WHOLE fruit (not those fancy pressed juices you’re paying $8 for) helps reduce how quickly your body absorbs sugar, and therefore mediates how quickly it’s digested and how soon your blood sugar spikes.

(2) Cutting out sugar probably isn’t going to help you

We’ve all seen the “I Quit Sugar” movement and the “sugar is the ultimate evil” documentaries but actually, sugars are found in so many foods, that avoiding sugar is nearly impossible. Sure, avoiding highly processed foods is beneficial for your overall diet and health. But if you’re making choices about foods based on one component, it’s time to have a good think about it. Since there have been sugar-free or “diet” soft drinks our obesity crisis has not reduced, it continues to increase at an alarming rate, it becomes pretty clear that (a) not one thing is causing this problem (b) taking sugar out and replacing it with equal isn’t fixing the problem. *I could get into the whole soft drink tax and the issues with soft drinks but we shall save that for another time*. These drinks are indeed sugar-free, they contain artificial sweeteners that taste sweet but cannot be broken down by the body and therefore are essentially free of calories.

There are international guidelines in place that tell us that we should not have more than 10% of our overall dietary intake as added, refined or free sugars (essentially these mean the same thing), as stated by the World Health Organisation. In total, sugars can make up about 20% (i.e. from fruit, milk and other sources of sugar) of your daily diet.

(3) Eating raw sugar or coconut sugar or maple syrup is NOT any better than the highly processed white stuff

WOW. Here we go. This may very well just blow your mind. Using the darkest sugar you can find or one of those ridiculously expensive, impossible-to-find-anywhere sugars that some “sugar-free, healthy brownie” recipe has called for is NO different to the whitest sugar you find on the supermarket shelf. It’s not sugar-free, it’s all 100% sugar, and it has the same amount of calories for every gram you add to your coffee or a batch of muffins. So no, using some exotic sugar in your baking doesn’t make your sweet treats “sugar-free” or “healthier” than those made with conventional sugar, they just make them more expensive and probably taste a bit funky.

Check it out next time you’re in the supermarket, grab a pack of raw sugar and white sugar and see the energy (kJ) content of each, they’re identical, they only vary in colour, flavour and usually the purpose for which they’re used.

So is sugar as bad as people make it out to be? Now that you are armed with some facts think about whether you should throw an apple away because it is “high in sugar” and consider the whole food instead.

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