Post on: June 17, 2019.

Posted in: Read.

Sweet, delicious and hard to resist sugars come in all sorts of forms and flavours: white sugar, muscovado sugar, cane sugar, demerara sugar, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar and more. What is the healthiest sugar to eat? Popular media changes it story regularly as to which sugar is healthier. Let’s measure out these sugars and weight out their benefits.

What sugar is best for you?

Here are common forms of sugar ranked from the healthiest sugar to the least.

Is raw sugar better for you than refined sugar?

Raw sugar isn’t actually ‘raw’; it has been refined and heated. Raw sugar is processed to remove some naturally occurring molasses, but still contains some. On the other hand, refined sugar goes through significant processing, so much that it contains no natural molasses.

What is refined sugar?

Refined white sugar, also called regular sugar, is made from sugar beets. The process of converting sugar beets into white sugar can include the use of chemical flocculents, animal bone char and bleaches. The processing creates small crystals of pure white sucrose. There are no additional nutrients in refined white sugar.  Both cane sugar and refined white sugar are types of sugar which are high in calories and cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Deceivingly, you will find muscovado, demerara and turbinado sugar in the natural food section of stores. They are located there because they are less processed than refined white sugar. Yet, natural does not always mean healthier. All sugar is high in calories, low in fiber and absorb quickly to spike your blood sugar levels. Natural sugars may be a better choice; however, they are all sugar.

What is cane sugar?

Cane sugar comes in a number of forms. Raw cane sugar (muscovado, dermerara, turbinado) is cane sugar that is partially processed so it still retains high proportions of molasses. Raw cane sugar has an intense almost burnt taste. Sucanat is unrefined cane sugar. Sugar cane contains small amounts of nutrients, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, but only small amounts are present in these examples of brown sugars. 

What is muscovado sugar?

One type of cane sugar that is a bit trendy is muscovado sugar, also known as Barbados sugar. It is a partially refined cane sugar. It has a dark brown colour and a strong molasses flavour making it a good choice for gingerbread cookies. Muscovado sugar is stickier and slightly coarser than other partially refined brown sugars such as turbinado and dermerara sugar. It’s important to clarify that these partially refined brown sugars are not the same as the so-called brown sugar commonly found in supermarkets. That brown sugar is actually highly refined white sugar that’s had molasses added to it to make it appear brown.

Is maple syrup better for you than honey?

These natural sugars are thought by some to be the healthiest sugars you can eat. Both maple syrup and honey are naturally occurring liquids. Both contain high amounts of sugar. Maple syrup is made from boiling the sap from sugar maple trees. The advantage of maple syrup is that it does contain small amounts of some vitamins, phenolic compounds, organic acids and amino acids. Honey has been scientifically proven to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. 

How bad is sugar for you?

Eating too much sugar promotes the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Consuming foods that have added sugars is also linked with fatty liver, insulin resistance and hyperuricemia.

Sugar Tips: 1) In most recipes, you can use only 1/3 of the recommended sugar and still enjoy delicious baked results. 2) Store bought treats always have more sugar than homemade.

How many grams of sugar should I eat?

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 5 to 10 teaspoons of free sugars per day. Free sugars are sugars added to foods. The American Heart Association has a similar recommendation of no more than 12 teaspoons (48 grams) of sugar per day. Ideally, one should eat less than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar.

Artificial sweeteners

Are artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, healthy? Artificial sweeteners are sugar-free, non-caloric sweet tasting chemicals made in a manufacturing plant. Despite suggestions that the use of artificial sweeteners promote weight loss, review of the research shows it does not. 

The sweet truth

Not every sugar is created equally. However, no matter what it is called, or how it is processed, all forms of sugar increase in your blood sugar level and should be consumed in low amounts. Eating a low-sugar diet is linked to healthy benefits (better weight management, mood balance) and may lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


[References]

Phytochemical profile of sugarcane and its potential health aspects. Pharmacogn Rev 2015 Jan-Jun;9(17):45-54.

Evidence from 1970 on sugar’s effect on health never saw the light of day. BMJ 2017;359.

Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes a systematic review. BDJ 2019 Jan 15;364:156.

Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of controversy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci 2016;53(1):52-67.

Towards a better understanding of the therapeutic applications and corresponding mechanisms of action of honey. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 2017 Dec;24(36).