Sugar Unwrapped: The Good, the Bad, and the Avoidable

Sugar Unwrapped: The Good, the Bad, and the Avoidable

With all the buzz about sugar in the nutrition world, it's important to understand the different types of sugars and how they can affect our well-being.

When it comes to sugar, not all sources are created equal. By categorizing sugars based on their health benefits and potential harms, we'll help you make informed choices about what sugars are okay, what's not okay, and what to avoid - from honey and white sugar to stevia and artificial sweeteners.

So, let's dive in and unravel the mysteries of sugar together!

The Sweet Truth: Natural vs Artificial Sweeteners

Based on their source, sugar can be categorized into: 

  • Natural sugars
  • Added sugar
  • Artificial Sweeteners

Natural sugars

These are sugars that are naturally found in foods. They are generally considered acceptable when consumed in moderation. 

Natural sugars like honey offer additional health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some, such as coconut sugar also have a lower glycemic index compared to refined white sugar. 

Examples of natural sugars include:

  • Coconut sugar: a natural sweetener made from the sap of coconut flowers, known for its lower glycemic index compared to regular sugar and potential antioxidant properties.
  • Dates: a natural sweetener made from the fruit of the date palm tree, known for its natural sweetness and potential antioxidant and fiber content.
  • Stevia: a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, known for its zero-calorie sweetness and potential anti-inflammatory properties.

Added Sugar

These are sugars that are added to your food at some point before you consume them. Natural sugars are derived from fruits and vegetables and present naturally in food while the added sugar is put in food by the manufacturers’.

Refined white sugar is the most common one used in our homes. It's best to minimize their usage. 

Added sugar can be in the form of:

  • Table sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Apple juice concentrate

These types of sugar are heavily processed and lack any additional health benefits. They are often added to many processed foods and beverages. They contribute to various health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.

While Apple juice concentrate may seem like a healthier alternative to other sweeteners, it is still a concentrated form of sugar that can contribute to health issues such as tooth decay and obesity (x). Apple juice concentrate is also a processed product in which the water from its juice is also removed, resulting in the loss of important nutrients and fiber.

Artificial Sweeteners/Sugar Alcohols

Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes are food additives that provide a sweet taste like sugar while containing zero calories. They are synthetic compounds that mimic the taste of sugar.

It is best to avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. These are lab-made sweeteners that are often used as zero-calorie alternatives to sugar in various processed foods. 

However, they may have hidden side effects, such as addictive properties. They lack any significant health benefits other than providing sweetness without calories. Many of them are known to disrupt gut health and kill beneficial gut bacteria.

Examples of artificial sweeteners that fall into this category are:

  • Aspartame: is an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar-free beverages and foods. It is known for its controversial safety profile and potentially addictive properties.
  • Xylitol: is a sugar alcohol often used as a sweetener in sugar-free gums and candies. It is known for its potential laxative effects and toxicity to pets.
  • Saccharin: is an artificial sweetener used in many sugar-free products. It is known for its bitter aftertaste and potential link to bladder cancer in rats.
  • Sucralose:is an artificial sweetener derived from sugar. But it is much sweeter and does not contain calories. It may have negative effects on gut bacteria and insulin sensitivity.
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): is a sweetener that is commonly used in processed foods and beverages. It is made by converting corn starch into a mixture of glucose and fructose. It is known to contribute to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Health Benefits and Harms of Sugar

Sugar consumption can have both health advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at some of the key points:

Health Benefits of Sugar:

  • Natural sugars found in sources like honey, dates, and coconut sugar may retain some of their natural properties, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Sugar can provide a quick source of energy for our bodies, which can be beneficial during physical activity or for those who require additional energy due to medical conditions or intense exercise routines.

Harmful Effects of Sugar:

  • Excessive consumption of added sugars, such as those found in soda, candy, and baked goods, can lead to weight gain, obesity, and related health issues.
  • Sugar can contribute to tooth decay, as bacteria in our mouths feed on sugar and produce acid that can erode tooth enamel.
  • A diet high in added sugars can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Excessive sugar consumption can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, leading to a crash in energy levels and potential mood swings.


To maintain optimal health, you should limit your overall sugar intake. However, natural sugars like stevia, coconut sugar, dates, and honey can be considered acceptable, in moderation, due to their potential additional health benefits. 

Minimize your usage of added sugars such as refined white sugar. These are high in calories and contribute to obesity and diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols have no health benefits. Although they are zero-calorie products, they may have hidden side effects. So it’s advisable to avoid these.

So, next time you reach for a sweetener, remember to make informed choices and prioritize natural sugars that come with additional health benefits. 

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