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In the last decade, intense focus has been placed on sugar and its detrimental health effects. You may wonder how refined sugars compare to natural ones, and whether they have similar health effects. Holistic health coach and Health expert, Tia Maher will explain why refined sugar is bad for your health and with what to substitute it.

How is refined sugar made?

Refined sugar is made by extracting and processing the sugar naturally found in foods like corn, sugar beets, and sugar cane. This refined sugar is then added to foods for various purposes, including to boost flavor.

What are the side effects of refined sugar?

Sugars like table sugar are added to various foods, including many that you would not suspect contain sugar. Thus, they may sneak into your diet, promoting a range of detrimental health effects. 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. For instance, consuming large amounts of refined sugar, especially in the form of sugary beverages, has consistently been linked to obesity and excess belly fat, a risk factor for conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Experts also know that eating sugar stimulates pathways in the brain that are associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. The overlapping paths may produce effects similar to substance use. 

Where are natural sugars found?

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.

Natural Sugar vs Refined Sugar

Carbohydrates are fuels that provide the body with energy. The body breaks down foods containing carbohydrates into glucose, which can then enter the bloodstream.

Some glucose is essential for the brain, central nervous system, and red blood cells to function properly.

Naturally occurring sugars come with a variety of nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy. For example, alongside fructose, fruit contains fiber and various vitamins and minerals. Most foods and drinks that contain added sugars, such as chocolate and soda, lack these nutrients.

Before these processed sugars and artificial sweeteners were introduced to the market, we relied on natural sweeteners such as raw honey.  Raw honey is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, folate, iron, manganese, and fluoride. It’s also known for its immune-boosting properties that fight inflammation and also give honey its anti-cancer properties. Honey also contains strong antioxidants, such as quercetin and caffeic acid, explaining its effectiveness for instantly boosting energy and performance. The glucose in honey is quickly absorbed by the body to provide an instant boost in energy while the fructose is absorbed more slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar and providing sustained energy.

Natural sugar sources can be Medjool dates, maple syrup and molasses. Make sure to check our blog for some healthy recipes with only natural sugars! 

Sugar isn’t a healthy food, but it’s also not the evil poison that it’s sometimes made out to be. While most of us could stand to have less of it, it’s perfectly fine to have a little bit. So go ahead and enjoy the occasional sweet treat — without a side of guilt.

December 08, 2021 — Mint Basil Team

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