By Dr. Amanda Wiggins, Clean Mixes Owner.
It’s easy to get confused when it comes to understanding sugars. Some say all sugars are the same, whereas others say the complete opposite. To shed some light on this issue, we’d like to share our No Nonesense Guide to Sugar. Once you’ve read this, you’ll be a pro!
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, a macronutrient that provides energy in the form of calories. There are many types of sugar that are commonly available and widely used in food manufacturing.
Granulated forms include white sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar and coconut sugar for example and liquid forms include agave nectar, rice malt syrup, honey, maple syrup and corn syrup. Those are just some of the types of sugars, the list goes on!
All sugars are comprised predominantly of:
- glucose and/or
- fructose and/or
These are the building blocks of the sugars. Glucose and fructose are simple sugars whereas sucrose is a sugar composed of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule.
With this basic knowledge in mind, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know when it comes to sugar - The Clean Mixes No Nonsense Guide to Sugar.
- How Much Sugar?
Excessive consumption of any type of sugar will contribute to poor health, therefore limiting your sugar intake should always be the bottom line.
The World Health Organisation’s guidelines recommend limiting sugar intake to no more than 10% of your daily calories. This equals a maximum of 10 teaspoons for the average adult at a calorie intake of 2,000 kcal per day.
10 teaspoons of sugar sounds like a lot right? it is a lot! To give you a guide, here is the sugar content in teaspoons of some common foods:
- Glass of Sauvignon Blanc – about half a teaspoon
- Snickers bar - 7 teaspoons
- 1 serve hokey pokey ice cream - 6 teaspoons
If you are aiming to lose weight you’ll want to reduce your sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake – a maximum of 5 teaspoons of added sugar per day is a useful guide.
- What Type of Sugar?
Different types of sugars contain different ratios of glucose and fructose. For example, common table sugar and honey both contain about 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Agave syrup on the other hand contains about 90% fructose, 10% glucose. Rice malt syrup is exclusively made up of glucose (it’s fructose-free).
Fructose and glucose are metabolised differently in the body, and evidence suggests excessive fructose consumption is especially harmful.
Fructose is the main sugar type found in fruit – however we are not suggesting cutting fruit from your diet.
Fructose in moderate amounts from fruit is perfectly fine to consume because in addition to fructose, fruit contains heaps of water, fibre and micronutrients that are healthy. Keep eating fruit!
It is important to understand how our bodies handle fructose versus glucose because it has health implications. Fructose is metabolised by the liver. Glucose requires insulin for metabolism and breakdown happens in all cells in the body.
For those with diabetes, they should avoid sugars with glucose because they require insulin to metabolise – so that would rule out normal table sugar, honey and rice malt syrup for example.
For those who don’t suffer diabetes, it is better to avoid sugars with high levels of fructose. Excess amounts of fructose can lead to serious liver issues, fat deposits around the stomach and organs, and increased levels of very low-density cholesterol (VLDL) – cholesterol which is strongly associated with heart disease.
Fructose doesn’t allow our body to kick in its appetite regulating hormones, so it’s far easier to overeat if you have excess fructose.
At Clean Mixes, we recommend using rice malt syrup as your liquid sweetener for our bliss ball mixes because it’s fructose-free, however you can use any liquid sweetener of choice depending on your dietary needs.
Some of our customers tell us they use agave nectar because they need to avoid glucose, while those in keto use sugar-free maple syrup.
- Does the Sugar Have Any Other Nutrients?
Some sugars contain small amounts of nutrients or bioactive components. These are provide minor benefits from your sugar intake. However, a note of caution here, eating sugar in any form is not recommended as a route to good nutrition. High sugar foods should only ever be consumed as an infrequent treat.
As a general rule, the less processed a sugar is, the more other nutrients or bioactive compounds will be present.
Some types of honey for example contain anti-microbial factors which can be beneficial for sore throats and topical applications. Kanuka and Manuka honey fall into this category.
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut trees. If contains trace amounts of minerals like magnesium and potassium and also contains naturally occurring inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic which feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in our guts. Unless you are on a low FODMAP diet, inulin is considered beneficial for feeding the good bacteria for overall digestive health.
Clean Mixes Choc Chip and Cacao Crunch bliss ball mixes contain small amounts of coconut sugar to give them a slight sweetness.
- How Sugary is the Sugar?
This might sound odd but be aware of the sugar content of your sugar! The sugar content of different sugars is a super useful guide when it comes to choosing your sugar.
Here’s a quick overview of the sugar content per 100g of some common sugars:
Rice malt syrup
TO SUM UP: The bottom line is limiting your sugar consumption to no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
For an average person, that equates to 10 teaspoons of ‘added’ sugar. To reach weight loss goals, we would recommend reducing that further. Clean Mixes Choc Raspberry bliss balls contains 1.2 grams sugar per serve – so you could grab one of these a day to fuel your body, while keeping well within the limits of daily sugar consumption.
The type of sugar you consume needs to match any dietary requirements (diabetic, FODMAP). For non-diabetics, low fructose sugars such as rice malt syrup are a better choice as they are not metabolised in the liver.
Be aware that some sugars such as table sugar and honey are higher in sugar than other sugars (such as coconut sugar and rice malt syrup) on a gram for gram basis.
So next time you’re thinking about which sugar to add to something, consider using a sugar that has less sugar!