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Good Sugar vs. Bad Sugar

As a culture, we have a pretty complicated relationship with sugar. There are several different types of sugar, countless substitutes, and all types of labels and classifications. There is so much information that it can actually make you unsure of what is really going on and what is good vs. bad.  

At the base of it, all real sugar (not chemical or natural sweeteners necessarily) is digested and absorbed the same. Your bloodstream cannot tell the difference whether you eat 50g of fruit sugar or 50g of sour patch watermelons. What makes the main difference is in these "good" and "bad" sugars, is the amount of sugar you intake and what nutrients are contained in the sugar. 

To be realistic, it's a lot easier to eat more sugar when it's handed to you in a sour-sweet candy than it is when you're given an apple. There's more sugar per serving in the candy, and they're easy to eat a ton of and hardly realize it. This is where the main and biggest fault in sugar is, it's not hard to over eat it these days. So, in terms of how much energy is received from the sugar, there is no good or bad sugar, only good or bad amounts.

However, there are nutrients you can find with sugar, which is what people are usually talking about when they label the different types (even if they don't realize that's what they're doing).  The molecule of sugar itself has no nutrients. But it is naturally found in fruits and vegetables that are good for you, so you get more nutrients with your sugar if you intake it inside those foods. As for brown sugar, the only difference between it and white cane sugar is that it has had small amounts of molasses added to it. No difference in nutrients (or lack thereof); the only differences are in the taste and consistency.

Another option tends to be raw sugar. This really just means it's less processed and more natural, more likely to be organic and more like sugars natural form, but, again, raw sugar doesn't provide any extra nutrients.

As for honey and other sweeteners, there's not a whole lot of difference from a nutritional standpoint. Honey is one of the few foods that has no expiration date, and it's known to sooth throats and brighten skin; it's a good thing to keep in the house, but it doesn't provide any nutritional benefits over cane sugar. The same goes for maple syrup or agave nectar. They all have similar chemical makeups and they all are converted into the same energy once they've been digested. There is also the idea of non-sugar sweeteners, of which there are many varieties. The most common options would be natural stevia or a chemical substitute like Splenda. These options are calorie free, so they're a decent alternative if you're counting calories, but these days its recommended that you stick to the more natural option. 

The last thing to keep in mind, which does make a difference, but is more generally related to food, is the speed in which nutrients can be broken down and turned into energy. This is the idea of Fast Carbs (of which sugar falls into) and Slow Carbs. Fast Carbs are more simple, and can be broken down by your body easier and quicker; these would be breads, fruits, sugars, and starchy vegetables. These foods are what give you a lot of energy for a short amount of time, since they're absorbed so quickly. Think of kids who have huge energy bursts and then fall asleep hard. Slow Carbs are more complex, and take longer to be broken down; these would include most vegetables, seeds, beans, and legumes. These foods give you a slow and stable amount of energy, keeping you fuller longer and giving you the energy to go on with your day without loosing focus or getting hungry. Think of when you have a big, nutritious breakfast and feel like you can take on the day. 

If you're looking for healthy, good sugar snacks on-the-go, check out some of these delicious Healthworks products that you can eat right out of the bag! 

This is just a crash course to dispel the myth of Good and Bad sugars, there will always be more research to do and more to learn, but that's why we're here. Just keep in mind that it is good to monitor your sugar intake, but you don't have to beat yourself up over eating some candy just because it has processed white sugar in it. And, if you really don't like the flavor of a sweetener, it wont be the end of the world to use some sugar or honey. Now go off and have a sweet time!


Sugar Nutrients

Honey Benefits

Stevia Info

Slow V Fast Carbs

SJB IG@SaviBee

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