Myth: Natural sugars are better for you.


Most sugars are just sugar to your body.  

Warning: I am not referring to the frakensugar high fructose corn syrup!
Blood sugar measurement

Blood sugar measurement

Natural sugar refers to sugars that occur naturally in foods.  Sugar is found in nature in foods such as fruits.  Although fruit contains the much-vilified fructose that is found in high fructose corn syrup, it is in much lower levels in fruit than a soda.  The problem is not the source of the sugar but the refining.  

Refined sugar is crystallized sugar that has gone through processing.  It can be found in both a bleached form that is white and brown sugar that is darker.  Although the brown sugar is less refined, it is still processed and readily absorbable. When we use the term “refined sugar,” they are referring to table sugar.  Table sugar most commonly is made from sugar cane and sugar beets.  Both the darker and lighter versions are readily absorbed.  

While it may seem to make sense that these less processed sugars are more health, but this would be incorrect.  Both are still readily absorbable, so you need to watch these natural, simple sugars because they are just as dangerous as the more processed versions.  The problem is that the processing removes the fiber and nutrients that slow absorption and digestion.  Fast absorption leads to fast storage as fat and a rapid return of hunger.

Many experts would like you to believe that natural sugars like agave, coconut, corn syrup, honey, and maple are more healthy than refined counterparts.  The fact is that all of them are empty calories that are easily absorbed.  All sugars are treated the same by our bodies  (outside of high fructose corn syrup).  Natural sugars can still count as calories and are just as likely to lead to obesity.  

So what about honey?  It is natural so it should be better for me, right?  All sugars to include honey but excluding high fructose corn syrup, are treated the same by our bodies.  Honey in my book is processed sugar.  Sure it is not processed by man, but those little sugar processing factories called bees are pretty efficient at removing the fiber and nutrients to leave nearly pure sugar.

The bottom line: Sugar is all forms, natural or refined, is readily absorbed and should be limited.  Most professionals recommend 6 and nine teaspoons or less per day. I recommend that you get more of your sugar from whole foods that contain plenty of fiber and nutrients to slow absorption.    

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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