Food, Healthy Eating

All The Types Of Sugar *Finally* Explained—Good News: Some Of It’s Healthy

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Sugar has been and continues to be a problem child–some love it, some hate it, and we all crave it once in a while.

The sugar universe is vast, and it’s easy to get sucked into a black hole of health craziness.

What You Really Need to Know About Sugar

First of all, let’s define sugar. Sugar just means a sweet substance that we define as food. There are different types: complex carbohydrates like those are found in grains and starchy veggies, fructose from fruit, refined table sugar, often found in sodas and junk food, and then alternative sugars such as agave, maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar, and date sugar. Oh and then there is fake sugar also. But let’s focus on the real stuff for now (if you want to learn more about fake sugar, read my post here).

All these sugars are very different from each other–they affect us in different ways, and it’s critical to not throw all of them in one bucket. Sugar, mostly in form of complex carbohydrates, found in brown rice, sweet potato, and winter squash is tremendously important in a well-balanced diet. We need this type of sugar for energy to use our brain, which is a muscle, as well as the rest of our body for regular chores and workouts alike. Don’t let anyone tell you carbs are bad–they aren’t! They are essential. Cutting out an entire food group is absurd and not sustainable. Fruit fits into the category of healthy sugar, too. It doesn’t only come with sugar in form of fructose but also tons of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

What You Really Need to Know About Sugar

Now what you should cut out are refined and processed sugars. White table sugar is an example of that. So is brown sugar–it’s not like another version of brown-rice-is-healthier-than-white. Other culprits are alternative sugars like agave, which for a while were glorified as new health foods. Agave and high-fructose corn syrup are pretty much equal in terms of hurting your health by rapidly raising your blood sugar levels. Striped of all nutrients, these types of sugars have a high-glycemic index–excessive consumption of which is one of the causes of diabetes.

Unfortunately, maple syrup is not much better. If you want to go with a lower glycemic sweetener, pick coconut sugar. But honestly, I sometimes even get a crash from that.

If you are looking for sweeteners in desserts, go with whole Medjool dates or date sugar, a truly healthy sugar that includes fiber because it’s made of dehydrated dates and nothing else. And then there is molasses, the other healthy option, which comes with plenty of iron, manganese, and magnesium. These are the only sugars that don’t make my system crash, and I use them in baking and cooking all the time, without any side effects.

Keep in mind that the more refined sugar you eat, the more your body will need and crave it. Sugar in its processed form creates addiction, so you should stick to whole-food sources of sugar like dates, fruit, sweet potatoes, beets, and winter squash as much as you can. You won’t risk addiction, diabetes, or other health issues if you go with the real deal.

Have you tried giving up processed sugar? Did you notice any positive results?

Also by Isabelle: How To Stay Slim This Fall Even With All The Pumpkin-y Foods #BeStrong

Related: How a Sugar-Free Diet Changed My Life

I Tried It: 3 Day Sugar Detox

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Isabelle Steichen

Isabelle Steichen

Founder at The Plantiful
​Isabelle grew up in Luxembourg and transitioned from an omnivore, cheese loving life to a plant-based diet after she finished her master's in urban studies in Paris and moved to NYC in January 2013. Her decision was triggered by environmental, ethical as well as health reasons. She is passionate about veganism and health and has a plant-based nutrition certificate from e-Cornell. The Plantiful is her blog and creative outlet that she uses to share her love for all things plant-based. Isabelle is also a health coach and a certified yoga teacher with focus on restorative.
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