Natural vs Refined Sugar: Why the Difference Matters

Natural vs Refined Sugar

Julie Baker, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, explains that sugar is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. However, the body uses natural and refined sugar differently, which affects your overall health.

Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. These foods contain essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease. Natural sources of sugar are digested slower and help you feel full for longer. It also helps keep your metabolism stable.

Refined sugar, or sucrose, comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar. Food manufacturers then add the chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to many packaged foods. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, which causes insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Since it is digested quickly, you don’t feel full after you’re done eating, regardless of how much you ate. Increased consumption of refined sugar has been linked to the rise in obesity rates, which is associated with higher risks of cancer.

Tips to Reduce Your Refined Sugar Consumption

  • Stick to Water: Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks contribute an astounding 44% of the added sugar in the American diet. They have little to no nutritional value and do not keep you hydrated. Limiting these drinks will significantly lower your sugar intake and improve your overall health.
  • Sauces & Toppings: It is shocking how much sugar is added to ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings and other common condiments. Instead, flavor your food with fresh herbs and spices, lemon or lime juice, pesto or homemade salad dressings. When you do have to buy sauces and toppings, look for the full fat options. They will contain less added sugar than the fat-free versions.
  • Processed Snacks: Even snacks labeled as “organic,” “all-natural” or “healthy” may be full of added sugar. Some granola and protein bars contain up to 8 teaspoons of added sugar. Instead, try snacking on mixed nuts, fresh fruit or cut up veggies.

Click here for more simple tips on how to limit your sugar intake from HealthLine!

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