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Is All Sugar Created Equal?


We put a pinch in our marinades, a packet in our coffees and a @#$!-ton in our breakfast cereals; sugar is inescapable and with good reason-- it’s delicious. Liking sugar literally makes us human. As carb eaters, we are naturally attracted to carbohydrates in its simplest form. 

It's easy to make food taste amazing with sugar-- that's why nearly every snack, even at the "health food store," has added sugars. At Foreal Foods, we decided the world doesn't really need more of that-- instead, we put real ingredients first and sugar last. 

So what exactly is sugar? Essentially, it is energy. A type of carbohydrate derived from foods and beverages that we consume(1). Naturally, it comes from fruits, vegetables, milk and grains(1).

You may have heard words before like, “simple” or “double” sugars. That’s referring to the type of sugar and its chemical make-up. The “simple” sugars (disaccharides) are found naturally in fruit and sweet veggies(1). “Double” (disaccharides) are found naturally in germinating grains(1)

The science behind sugar becomes very complex and I could write books on the subject-- many people already have. Instead, I will give you the down and dirty on what humans need to know about sugar.

We have all been told, “a teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down”, but now we're told sugar is the reason we need medicine in the first place. Sugar has been charged with poor cardiovascular health (2)(3), diabetes mellitus type 2 (2)(3), obesity (4), poor oral care (5), and even pregnancy complications(4). The list of charges goes much further but you get the idea. 

As a food lover, I would also like to charge sugar with smiles, happiness, comfort, and of course...love. I am in no way advocating for the excess intake of sugar, but what celebration does not come with a sugar-infused treat? It is important to recognize the balance.

My grandmother would encourage me to add a spoonful of sugar to my Cheerios and milk. Later, she was the first person I saw promoting green smoothies-- before Gwyneth Paltrow and Joe Rogan declared it was cool. 

With no prior medical training, she was already doing what every doctor has told us. It’s ok to take in sugar but do it in moderation. Specifically about 6 teaspoons (24g) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (36g) for men (6). 

Seems easy but who the hell is measuring out their added sugar intake? Well, we do it all the time without knowing. 1 sugar packet is about 2 teaspoons. The syrup that comes with McDonald’s hotcakes is roughly 11 teaspoons. Luckily, a standard glass of wine (5 fl oz) only has a little under ½ a teaspoon but a REAL standard serving (1 bottle) has about 1.5 teaspoons. 

But what about all these alternative sweeteners we’re always hearing about? Are alternatives like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar actually better for you? Sadly, probably not. Some boast about the antioxidant or prebiotic benefits while others talk of a “low glycemic index.” They also recommend treating it like conventional sugar(7). These mixed statements can lead to a false sense of health when it comes to sugar alternatives.

 Dietician Elaine Gardner helped reduce the miscommunication by publishing multiple journals that explained the health benefits of sugars of all forms. When referencing maple syrup (or any syrup for that matter) she stated that all syrups contain some combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose(8). This means consuming syrups in excess will produce the same complications as regular sugar(8). 

Gardner reports that the findings of fruit/tree-based syrups and their antioxidant benefits were based on research on the actual fruit, not the syrup(8). Date syrup research has only been in lab experiments and no human trials have been conducted to prove any benefits(8). 

Gardner even called out honey. She states that although its glycemic levels are lower than sugar, it still has a similar effect on blood sugar, especially in diabetic patients. The antibacterial effects of honey are based on research done with medical-grade honey and do not support any claims for conventional honey seen in the stores (9). She recommends treating honey like you treat all other sugars and never give it to children under 1. 

Being a coconut-based brand it's only fair we inspect coconut sugar as well. Lucky for us, Gardner stated that coco sugar is minimally processed which allows it to maintain more nutrients. However, when eating in excess the benefits do not outweigh the detriments and it should also be treated the same as conventional sugar (10).  

It seems when it comes to digestion, all sugars act about the same. Some may have more nutrients but it doesn’t appear to offset the negative effects of excess sugar intake(8)(9)(10). 

I am excited to report that when sugar comes in its fruit or veggie form, like in a banana or carrot it’s paired with fiber and vitamins/nutrients which may partially offset some of the negative effects. Unless you’re diabetic or counting calories some doctors argue the sugars in fruits and veggies are not a big concern (11). 

I’m sure most of this news was mostly a reminder but I recommend taking a day or two and write down all the times you add sugar to your diet. This will help you get a feel for your daily intake and then you can act accordingly. 

Replacing your traditional chips and cookies with snacks that have 0 added sugar like our coconut jerky is a great tool you can use to help cut back on sugar. Also, eat your fruits and veggies, visit your grandma more often, and always practice #safesnacking.

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