Weekly Wellness: Are Natural Sugars Different than Added Ones?
COLUMBIA- We have discussed the topic of sugar many times on Weekly Wellness. We have talked about limiting sugars and why it’s important to pay attention to food labels. This week, we’re going to discuss the difference between “naturally occurring” sugars and “added” sugars. Because there IS a difference.
Simply put: added sugar is any sugar that was added to a food at some point (i.e. sugars that are added to food items during the manufacturing process in the form of granulated sugar, molasses, brown sugar). Naturally occurring sugar is already in the food naturally (i.e. sugars in fruits, dairy products, some vegetables, etc.)
Added sugars are most obviously found in things like pastries, cookies, ice creams, candy, sodas, muffins, cakes. It’s the items that we don’t really think about that it can sneak up on us – did you know that sugar is added to products like salad dressing, crackers, pasta sauces, etc.?
On a molecular level, there are two main kinds of sugars. The first is monosaccharides (single sugar molecules) which include fructose, galactose and glucose. These go directly into the bloodstream after you eat them. The second is disaccharides, which are two single sugar molecules linked together. There is sucrose (glucose + fructose); lactose (glucose + galactose); maltose (glucose + glucose). These get quickly broken down by the liver into single glucose molecules before entering the bloodstream – so they raise your blood sugar slightly more slowly.
There is so much information about sugar that it really is challenging to distinguish what is supposed to be good and bad. The bottom line is this: it’s easier to get more nutritional value and hard to consume excessive amounts of sugar from foods with only or mostly naturally occurring sugars. While a cup of yogurt is not the same as a donut, sugar is sugar. Still confused? Yea, me too.