All You Need to know about Sugar: Pollen & Grace

The Pollen & Grace nutritionists touch on why sugar extrapolated from its source and processed is toxic for the body and why it is best to stick to the natural, fibre rich sources.

Sugar is the 2016 equivalent of what fat was to the noughties, although luckily this time it's based on genuine research, and not just along the lines of 'fat must make you fat' (and thank god for the revelation that one's not true - we're quite attached to our homemade cashew butter). But what's the deal with sugar - sure, it's pretty obvious that the refined white stuff can't be too good for us (it doesn't exactly tick the 'natural' box after all) but what about all the 'sugar free sweeteners' and 'natural sugars'? With little research to go on, and every other person heralding a different option, it's a tricky one to navigate, but we'll try our best.

WHY IS SUGAR BAD FOR YOU? Sugar is a mixture of glucose and liquid fructose. Our bodies need glucose but we do not need fructose however, and it can only be metabolised by the liver. When the liver gets overwhelmed, it turns the fructose into fat - specifically triglycerides, free fatty acids and LDL cholesterol and the release of dopamine which leads us to crave more.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. This basically means any manufactured, man-made sugars that tend to have zero calories - maltitol, aspartame and sorbitol are just a few. And yes, they're as bad for your insides as they sound.

AGAVE SYRUP. Rewind two years and agave was breaking onto the health scene - hailed the good-for-you sugar and used in everything from raw chocolate to vegan cakes. It's a 'natural sugar', so what's the problem? It comes back to the fructose/glucose levels: agave is 56%-92% fructose depending on the brand, which is really hard for the liver to metabolise (therefore getting overwhelmed and turning it into fat) - with the lack of glucose also meaning that the pancreas does not release insulin, which would work as a regulator and help with metabolisation. This, along with the fact that the process of making agave (heating to break the fructans down into fructose) further destroys any nutritional value the plant had, makes it one we always steer clear of.

HONEY. Of course everyone has different opinions on this, but for us, honey is on the good list. Why? Put simply, it's a real, natural food that has always been accessible to humans - it isn't manufactured and it contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help the body - it's more than just sugar. It's still 40% fructose based, but still a much better, unrefined option.

COCONUT SUGAR. Derived from the sap of the coconut plant. It has a low GI index as well as containing minerals - iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. It varies in levels of fructose levels 38%-48% but again, coming from a natural source has additional health benefits.

DATES. The fruit of the palm tree, dates are naturally occurring and not processed. They're still high in fructose but as they're in their natural form, they also contain other compounds that aid in the digestion of the sugars, such as dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.

YACON SYRUP. Yacon syrup comes from the yacon plant - taken from the roots, then processed to create the syrup which heralds a host of health benefits. It's apparently meant to speed up your metabolism, having been used for centuries due to it's holistic properties. Although that one should be taken with a pinch of salt, it's still very high in fibre, making it great for those with digestive problems. It has a sweet caramel taste, similar to black molasses.

RICE MALT SYRUP. Made from fermented cooked rice, rice malt syrup is 0% fructose. It’s a blend of complex carbs, maltose (which is just 2 forms of glucose) and glucose. That said, because it is 100% glucose, it has a high GI rate, making it unsuitable for diabetics. As with all food however, your choice of sweetener comes down to your own preferences and how your body works - some people benefit from 0% fructose rice malt syrup, whereas others would be best with natural, date sweetened treats. And no matter what your choice is, consume in moderation, with natural, wholesome food - and enjoy.

No matter what your choice is, consume in moderation, with natural, wholesome food - and enjoy.


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