SUGAR - The differences of Natural Sugar and Added Sugar



While you’ve probably heard enough about how we need to avoid sugar , the sweet substance also serves as a quick source of energy and is technically impossible to avoid completely. Hence, it’s important to first realize that 2 types of sugars exist- natural sugar and added sugar - as well as understand the differences between these two.

Natural sugars are found in unprocessed whole foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy and starches and come together as a package with vitamins, minerals and nutrients to provide a sustainable source of energy.

In contrast, the real concern arises with added sugars which refers to any form of sugar that is added to food or beverages during processing or preparation. Added sugars are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and are linked to several diseases. These added sugars can take on a myriad of identities as brown sugar, palm sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar molecules ending in “ose” such as glucose, sucrose, maltose.

Why should we reduce intake of added sugars?

Excessive intake of added sugars provides little to no benefits and can be detrimental to our health from several aspects.

- Gut health
Processed carbohydrates and added sugars trigger the growth of harmful gut bacteria and promotes an inflammatory microbiota which in turn negatively impacts our health, including the immune system, skin, heart, hormone levels, and body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

- Weight gain
Foods containing added sugars not only tend to be higher in calories, but also tend to be more palatable, which encourage people to consume more of the food. Hence, an increased overall calorie intake can lead to weight gain in the long run.

- Heart health
Excessive sugar intake not only increases the likelihood of being obese and developing type 2 diabetes but have also been shown to increase blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

- Skin health
A diet high in sugar contributes to the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are compounds that damage collagen and elastic, causing the skin to age prematurely. At the same time, a study among 2,300 teenagers demonstrated that frequent consumption of added sugars led to 30% greater risk of developing acne.

Tips to reduce sugar intake:

1.     Say no to liquid sugar.

Avoid sweetened beverages including sodas, smoothies, and bubble tea which are a prime source of extra calories that not only contributes to weight gain but also provides very little nutritional benefits. Studies also indicate that liquid carbohydrates are less satiating than solid food form, causing us to feel hungry even after consuming a full serving of beverage. 

2.     Read food labels

Before you judge the sugar content in foods based on sweetness levels alone, think again! Research suggests that about 75% of packaged foods in supermarkets contain added sweeteners. This includes salad dressings, breakfast cereals, yogurt and canned food.

- Scan the ingredient list for added sugars. Keywords to look out for are “syrup”, “sweetener”, “honey”, “nectar” and words that end with “ose”.

- Select sugar free or low sugar products.

3.     Make healthier swaps

- Opt for fresh whole fruits instead of fruit juice & smoothies.

- Opt for whole foods instead of processed foods. 

- Have a fruit for snack of dessert instead of a sweet confection

- Prepare a homemade version of sauces, dressings & desserts where you can control the amount of sugar that goes into the food.  


By Nutritionist Zuanne
Anna Hoo Clinic

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