That being said, it must be said at least that eating cold turkey with sweets can be a challenge. So when you absolutely *have to* reach for a sweetener—whether for coffee, cooking, baking, or another use—what healthier option is there to prioritize? Are not? We asked two nutritionists about the scoop.
First of all, fruit is good for you (and no added sugar)
Before we dive into the potentially healthier forms of sugar, nutritionist Carlie Saint-Laurent Beaucejour, MS, RD, LDN, carefully makes it clear that whole food sources of sugar contain sugar in the form of sugar. fructose—such as fruit—is different. league versus processed and refined sweeteners. More specifically, she gives an example of a whole apple versus apple juice. “If you want, the apple juice is pre-digested because you don’t have to chew it like [whole] fruit,” Beaucejour said. We also miss out on nutrients like fiber and vitamins when we drink juice instead of the fruit itself—and that loss of fiber causes “our bodies to digest apple juice faster, providing us with quick energy and little sense of satisfaction”.
These points are considered, indeed still highly recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet thanks to its fiber and antioxidants — even with its natural sugar content. “Are not [the whole fruit nor the juice] are forbidden to eat, but it is important to know the nutritional and metabolic differences,” says Beaucejour.
…But do healthier sugar options exist?
White sugar and high-fructose corn syrup often get a bad reputation…and not without reason. Meanwhile, some sugar substitutes are often touted as more nutritious — or less “bad” — than these popular sweeteners. But are they really healthier? Prepare yourself for some much needed reality checks and big myth breaking.
ICYMI, coconut sugar is often hailed as a healthier alternative to standard sweeteners. As nutritionist Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDN, based in Brooklyn, explains, that’s largely because it has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) than cane sugar.
“For people with diabetes who are very conscious of their sugar, this could be a healthier alternative — but not by much,” says Pasquariello. “Recent evidence really shows that using the glycemic index as a way of controlling blood sugar is not highly accurate, because the GI of a particular food does not take into account typical serving sizes. ” In other words, if you’re enjoying foods that use it in place of cane sugar, you’re not necessarily encouraging more stable blood sugar.
Pasquariello adds that while coconut sugar has higher levels of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and even B vitamins and vitamin C than cane sugar, this does not equate to any other preparation. any obvious diet. “These nutrient differences are so small that you have to consume large amounts of sugar for the ‘benefits’ to be noticeable — at which point any such benefit would be heavily influenced by consequences of consuming sugar,” she says.
“These nutrient differences are so small that you have to consume large amounts of sugar for the ‘benefits’ to be noticeable — at which point any such benefit would be heavily influenced by consequences of consuming sugar,” says Pasquariello.
Brown sugar and raw sugar
Pasquariello gets straight to the point about these two sugars. “There is absolutely no nutritional benefit to consuming raw or brown sugar in place of white cane sugar,” she says. The nutritionist explains that brown sugar is merely white cane sugar with molasses added and that raw sugar is simply less refined. “The only real difference is in how these sugars are handled, but nutritionally it’s all the same once the sugar has entered your body and is converted to its simplest form,” says Pasquariello.
Agave, maple syrup and honey
Pasquariello groups these liquid sweeteners together, as they appear to be healthy enough thanks to the antioxidants and micronutrients they contain (including calcium, thiamin, potassium, and copper). “That said, there’s no such thing as a healthier swap for something like fruit, and they can’t be considered ‘healthy’ by themselves,” explains Pasquariello. “They’re still sugar and are made with the same ingredients as high-fructose corn syrup, white or brown sugar, just slightly different in proportions.”
Pasquariello also mentions that agave is said to be healthier because it has a lower GI than regular sugar, but again cautions that it should be taken with a pinch of salt as GI is an imperfect metric. Furthermore, she explains that agave is mainly composed of fructose, “while other sweeteners like white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and honey contain more glucose, and sweeteners. Sweets like coconut sugar, molasses, brown sugar and maple syrup contain more sucrose.” Even so, Pasquariello advises not to appreciate agave as a healthier form of sugar.
Sugar considerations aside, Beaucejour notes that when consumed locally, honey can “do wonders” for seasonal allergies. In particular, Manuka honey is also highly antibacterial and antimicrobial, as well as potentially beneficial for gut health. That said, a teaspoon of it will still contain 4 grams of sugar, so you should still limit your intake.
Simply put, the only “healthy” sugars that nutritionists recommend are those found in whole fruits, as they also contain fiber and antioxidants. But for added sugars and sweeteners, one won’t be more beneficial than the next. “In general, granular and liquid sugars don’t really matter. Once consumed, your GI system cannot distinguish the type of sugar you just ate. It’s all converted to simple sugars (monosaccharides) and used as immediate fuel by the cells or stored as glycogen for later use,” says Pasquariello. Beaucejour adds: “Sugar that we add to our food — no matter what type or variety — should be consumed with caution and in moderation. “Too much of any added sugar can lead to tooth decay, inflammation, and other side effects.”
Simply put, the only “healthy” sugars that nutritionists recommend are those found in whole fruits, as they also contain fiber and antioxidants. But for added sugars and sweeteners, one won’t be more beneficial than the next.
Furthermore, Pasquariello points to a disturbing fact about sweeteners that are said to be healthier than conventional options. “Often, individuals and ‘research’ talk about the ‘benefits’ of these sugar substitutes sponsored by companies that would profit from people consuming more of them,” she said. .
With that in mind, Pasquariello recommends heeding disclaimers and choosing your nutrition education sources; Ideally, you’ll get your facts—whether sweet or serious—directly from a nutritionist.