Refined Vs Natural Sugars
We are being told more and more that sugar is bad for us, however not ALL sugars are bad for us, in fact our bodies NEED sugar to function optimally. Without the right sugars our cells become stressed, and elevated stress levels lead to a breakdown of body tissues, thyroid imbalance, weakened digestion, decreased immunity and damaged metabolism.
Firstly, lets talk about the different types of sugars found in our foods (Pre-packaged and wholefoods) and divide them into refined sugars and natural sugars.
Refined sugars are derived from Sugar Cane, stripped of all Molasses, which is where the colour and nutrients are stored. Then it is processed further to create smaller and smaller crystals until it’s at it’s most refined in liquid form as High Fructose Corn Syrup.
In order of refinement based on crystal size & molasses content there is:
- Brown Sugar
- Raw /Granulated Sugar
- White Sugar
- Castor Sugar
- Icing/Powdered Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
Why should you avoid these sugars?
The body metabolises these forms of sugar quickly, causing a spike in insulin and energy levels, but not filling you up. The nutritional value is zero as all the minerals have been stripped from it when the molasses was extracted. Causing you to be hungry again quickly, which then prompts you to eat again, causing a cycle of overeating and hunger. Not to mention weight gain, tooth decay, hypoglycaemia, vitamin and mineral depletion and even diabetes if eaten in large amounts.
In contrast, let’s talk about good sugars found naturally in food with minimal or no refinement so as to retain nutrients. We will call these ‘Natural Sugars’.
What are Natural Sugars?
The most common types of Natural Sugars are
- Whole Ripe Fruits
- Pure Maple Syrup
- Coconut Sugar
Whole Ripe Fruits
Contain vitamins, minerals, soluble fibre, which aids in digestion. Potassium which makes it a good sugar choice for Diabetics, as it mimics insulin in the body and helps move glucose around the cells. Fruit also stabilises blood sugar levels and fills you up, breaking the overeating and hunger cycle that results from refined sugars. This is especially important in our children’s diets and for their energy needs throughout a busy day.
All fruits are nutritionally great for us but we have to highlight the humble Date! Dates are a ‘Superfood’ and need their own mention. They are high in Vitamin B, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper. They promote good bone health, boost the nervous system, aid in digestion and are a great energy booster, making them the perfect sugar choice for kids. That’s why Lunchbox Pals has included so many great snacks that contain Dates in their upcoming boxes. The Crazy Cocao Health Bombs, Emma & Toms’ Life Bars, Kez’s Kitchen’s Free and Naked Bars as well as their Pure Good Bars and Luv Sum’s Cashew and Caramel Balls.
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners on earth. It is nature’s nectar…Literally! The health benefits of honey are second to none when talking about a natural sugar. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, regulates blood sugar, soothes throat irritations and coughs, is a probiotic and strengthens immune health when taken orally. It can also heal wounds and burns when used topically. Why wouldn’t you use honey, particularly Manuka Honey as your go to sweetener?! There is however restrictions on giving honey to babies under 12 months old as they are unable to digest the bacteria found in honey due to an immature gut. Once over 12 months they have no worries and it can be eaten without any risks.
Pure Maple Syrup
Produced from the sap of the Maple Tree, made by boiling the sap until it reduces to a concentrated natural syrup. There is no refinement at all in Pure Maple Syrup and traditionally it has been known to be good for digestion and the circulatory system as it contains Zinc and Manganese, as well as some trace minerals and antioxidants.
Made from the flowers of the Coconut Palm, by slicing the blooms and collecting the sap. This sap is then boiled until the water evaporates.
It contains a fibre called Inulin, which contributes to its low GI and minimal glucose spiking. It is also great for gut health as Inulin Fibre contains a Prebiotic, which feeds good gut bacteria converting the fibre into short-chain fatty acids necessary for excellent Colon health.
So, the next time you are using sweeteners, think about natural vs refined. Even though natural sugars are better for you, we still have to be mindful of our recommended daily intake of sugar for optimal health especially when we are feeding our little ones. I hope now you have a good amount of info to make informed food choices when you are craving a sweet snack and of course, eat everything in moderation.
Written by Rennae @Bourke St Baby
Bourke St Baby is a Blog written by Mum, Rennae. Two children keep her busy whilst working part time, blogging and studying Children’s Nutrition. She is a huge advocate for healthy eating and keeping food prep as simple and nutritious as possible by cooking one meal the whole family can enjoy, from weaning through toddlerhood and beyond. For great tips on Baby Led Weaning, Recipes, Food Facts and Allergy info, pay a visit to
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