As a Nutritionist, it is very important I let you in on a little secret… Not all sugars are bad for you and here’s why:
Sugars are a simple form of carbohydrate, with glucose (a type of sugar, more on glucose below) being the primary source of energy to fuel your central nervous system, red blood cells and muscles during an intense workout. Therefore, the role of sugar within the body is essential to life, and forceful dietary depletion will eventually lead to health problems. But…
You Need To Know The Different Types of Sugar
It helps to know the six different types of sugars so you know what you can consume freely, what to have sometimes and what to avoid. Just briefly:
Monosaccharides (mono meaning “one” saccharide meaning “sugar”)
- Glucose: Not found free in nature however, you can obtain glucose powder or gel for cooking from health foods stores. Foods we eat containing other sugars such as fructose in fruits will be broken down into glucose, to then be metabolised for energy.
- Fructose: Found in fruits, honey and high-fructose corn syrup, used to make soft drinks and confectionary. Fructose is mainly metabolised to glucose for energy or some may be converted to lactic acids or fat if in excess.
- Galactose: Not found free from nature but consumed as a disaccharide “lactose” found in milks and other dairy products. Once metabolised it is used either as energy or stored ready to use for energy.
Disaccharides (“two” monosaccharides)
- Sucrose: (Fructose + Glucose) from cane or beet sugar and know as our table sugar.
- Maltose: (Glucose + Glucose) primarily formed from starch (another type of carbohydrate) and include beer and malt beverages.
- Lactose: (Glucose + Lactose) found in milk and dairy products.
See below for which sugars to eat and which may put your health at risk.
Which Sugars May Put Your Health At Risk?
If health issues are arising or you want to take on a preventative role I would suggest evaluating your sucrose (glucose + fructose) intake. This means reducing consumption of confectionary, pastries, processed muffins, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks that are not beneficial to your body, and may contribute to tooth decay, non-communicable diseases, mood swings and low energy. As briefly mentioned about the fructose molecule, if consumed in excess within the diet can be converted to fat and overtime lead to weight gain.
Should You Stop Eating Fruit?
If you’re thinking fructose is the devil and therefore you now should avoid fruit in case you get fat then the message is not clear. Fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Try to consider fruit as a valuable source energy and nutrients, important for maintaining good health.
How Much Fruit Should You Eat?
Consume at least 1-2 serves of fruit per day in the form of:
- Fresh fruit (150g per serve)
- Dried fruit (30g per serve)
- Fruit juice (125ml per serve)
What About Sugar Alternatives?
Swap the regular table sugar and high fructose corn syrup for sugars with higher nutritional value. Here are some excellent sugar alternatives.
- Coconut Sugar or Nectar – Low GI (does not spike your blood sugar levels), traces of 16 vital amino acids, vitamins and minerals and will give you the same sweetness level 1:1 as regular sugar.
- Rice Malt Syrup – Low GI, made from brown rice and therefore a slower release of energy compared to simple white sugars. Mild sweetness level.
- Agave Syrup – Low GI and a stronger sweetness level, however high in fructose and this can cause digestive upset if are following a FODMAP diet.
- Medjool Dates, Pineapple, Passion fruit, Sultanas, Raisins, Currants and Apple – Contributes to fruit intake, source of dietary fiber and great for raw desserts or homemade healthy muffins and cakes. Fruits are your best choice as they are naturally occurring sugars.
Be creative in the kitchen and be assured you can easily still consume those “sometimes foods” when you become the baker ;). To get you started in the kitchen (maybe even this weekend?!), here’s my recipe for Gluten Free Macadamia Passion Biscuits where I’ve used passionfruit and organic coconut sugar as my healthy sugar substitutes. They’re absolutely delicious!!!
3 Other Sweet Recipes You Might Like:
Do you have a question about sugar and healthy substitutes for me? Ask away via the comment section below.
P.S. Know someone who may find this information helpful? Be a sweet friend and share it with them now.