Natural sugars are sugars that are found naturally – simple. This includes fruits, vegetables, and also honey(shop for organic honey). There are two types of simple sugars – glucose and fructose. Glucose is found in all foods that have carbohydrates, so they include mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, etc. Glucose is vital to life, is also produced by our body and easily broken down by every cell. Fructose, on the other hand, is fruit sugar, because its main source is fruits (and honey). Fructose is a bit harder to break down, as only your liver breaks down significant portions of it.
Coming to processed sugars, they are natural sugars that have been modified, combined and processed to make something. The white sugar that we all have in our homes is a form of processed sugar called Sucrose, which combines (half) glucose and (half) fructose. The other types of processed sugar include high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and molasses, among others.
Is one better than the other? Well, you can’t pit the two against each other. The main difference between natural and processed sugars is how each one delivers glucose and fructose to your body. For instance, fruits(buy authentic organic fruits) are not just fructose, they also have a host of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Your regular white sugar doesn’t do that. Having all these other nutrients allows your body to slow down the absorption of fructose, because if your body gets overloaded with only fruit sugar, the liver can’t use it all and it gets stored as fat.
However, that’s not the case with Glucose, which your body loves and digests easily. But it does affect your blood sugar levels. Too much glucose and your pancreas may overproduce insulin and actually cause low sugar levels. Confusing? So, have you noticed why after eating a lot of candy, you crash. This is the reason.
Processed sugars combine both of these and mostly leave your body overwhelmed, and riddled with health issues in the long run.
Are there any sugar alternatives then?
Coconut sugar is a great alternative(buy now), since it raises blood sugar slower. It may also contain nutrients, so it isn’t just a combination of fructose and glucose. Date paste(shop here) is another easy sugar alternative you can make at home with pitted dates. There is Agave nectar(buy here), a natural sweetener, which again raises blood sugar lower so it doesn’t lead to spikes.
What about diabetics? Are natural sweeteners and fruits okay for them?
Not really. Something like an Agave nectar contains a lot of fructose, more than high-fructose corn syrup, which can increase insulin resistance, and also lead to weight gain and obesity. This is also the reason why diabetics aren’t really recommended to have all fruits. Certain fruits may cause blood sugars to spike at a quicker pace than others, like grapes, cherries, pineapples and mangoes.
So, you see, it’s not that easy to say natural is better than processed. What matters is how much you consume, how your body uses it and in what form it’s delivered. Too much of anything is bound to result in health issues. To get the best for your body, load up on a good mix of fruits and vegetables, to prevent overdosing on sugar, and also get some much-needed nutrients.(Also read: What happens to your body when you eat too much sugar)