Not all sugar is equal
Natural sugar raises a lot of questions as we often have people look at a Googys Real Food Protein Bar nutritional profile and tell us the sugar content is too high – that it has the “wrong macros”. They tell us that “sugar is sugar”, all sugar is bad, and all sugars are the same. We are left to politely disagree and can perhaps assume that these people are also depriving themselves of all fruit.
What is sugar?
Sugar occurs naturally within the cell walls of fruits, vegetables and berries. This naturally occurring sugar is healthy and nutritious when consumed in fruit, which also contains natural fibre, vitamins and minerals.
It is the added sugars that must be avoided. Education and better food labelling is required to help us all understand the difference between the healthy natural sugars found in fruits (intrinsic sugars), and the unhealthy added sugars that manufacturers add to foods (extrinsic sugars).
The nutrition of sugar
Nutritional values come from the food we eat via a complex chemical breakdown of food in our digestive system. Our bodies are complex and the way we absorb food isn’t simple (and not fully understood). The fibre in fruit helps regulate digestion and slows down absorption of natural sugar into the bloodstream. This gives longer lasting energy and avoids the insulin spike caused by added sugars.
Further to this, scientific evidence is building that eating fruit, even with natural sugar, helps reduce body weight. This effect is the opposite effect to added sugar and screams that we need to start distinguishing naturally present sugar from added sugars in our food! (1,2,3).
Research on sugar
A study was done of 2 groups of obese people put on the same calorie-controlled, but with the key difference being one group had additional fruit. The result showed that the group eating fruit actually lost more weight (3).
Several other studies have also found that a higher intake of added sugars, but not total sugars, is associated with “nutrient dilution” and obesity. The more added sugar, the lower fibre, less fruit and vegetables, and higher wheat consumption.
This all adds up to poor nutrition and to the corresponding health issues such as chronic diseases, obesity and heart disease (4,5,6,7,8). The take home point? Eating the recommended daily intake of fruit with natural sugar, does not contribute unhealthy sugar to your diet.
What the experts say on sugar
Expert groups such as the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organisation all recommend decreasing the intake of added sugars and make the distinction between added and natural sugar.
In 2016, the USA introduced new mandatory labels for packaged foods that list added sugar separately to total sugar. Consumers in the US can now make the distinction between what is added and what is natural sugar.
Australia’s food labelling for sugar
But as a consumer in Australia how do we know? In Australia we are only informed of the total sugar content. Our only method to separate natural from added sugar is to look at the ingredients list for clues! This is crazy when there are so many hidden sugars added under different names (9).
Check out this list:
How can all this be less confusing than a food label simply including a line on the nutritional panel for “added sugar”?
How Googys helps you understand sugar as an ingredient
At Googys we decided to list “added sugar” to the nutritional panel (which is 0g). We do this because we believe all food labels in Australia should make the distinction. This will allow consumers to confidently reduce their added sugar intake and look for products with no added sugar. This in turn puts pressure on food manufacturers to lower or eliminate added sugars out of foods. With evidence building against added sugar, it seems overdue that Australian labelling laws change.
Further studies on sugar
More studies need to be conducted using various fruits and fruit types (such as dried fruit v fresh), and also more studies showing a direct comparison against added sugar, and added sweeteners.
We hope in the future the comment that “sugar is sugar” will morph into a question of natural or added sugar, and fruit will be universally accepted as healthy.
Shop Googys real food protein bars with NO ADDED SUGAR here.
- Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, Jenkins DJ (2012) Sugar: fruit fructose is still healthy
- Sharma S.P., Chung H.J., Kim H.J., Hong S.T. (2016) Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity. Nutrients.
- Rodríguez M.C., Parra M.D., Marques L.I., de Morentin B.E., González A., Martínez J.A. Effects of two energy-restricted diets containing different fruit amounts on body weight loss and macronutrient oxidation
- Te Morenga L, Mallard S & Mann J (2012) Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies.
- Forshee RA, Storey ML (2001) The role of added sugars in the diet quality of children and adolescents.
- Somerset SM (2003) Refined sugar intake in Australian children.
- Kaartinen N.E., Simila M.E., Kanerva N., Valsta L.M., Harald K., Mannisto S. (2017) Naturally occurring and added sugar in relation to macronutrient intake and food consumption: Results from a population-based study in adults.
- Sluik D, van Lee L, Engelen AI, et al. (2016) Total, free, and added sugar consumption and adherence to guidelines: The Dutch National Food Consumption Survey 2007–2010.
- Clemon R. (2015) Sugar, by any other name. Choice.com.au