What is the healthiest sugar?

So this might raise a few eyebrows: I’m a nutritionist and I use REGULAR SUGAR in my kitchen. That’s right – your common or garden, normal, refined, white stuff (or brown if I want it for flavour). Why? Because molecularly they’re all the same. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Honey, coconut sugar, agave, date syrup, maple – your body absolutely cannot tell the difference! There is no “healthiest sugar”.

All the so-called unrefined, healthy and natural sugars are all just “free sugars” which our bodies break down into the same monosaccharides (aka simple sugars) glucose and fructose (albeit in different ratios). Sugar, by any other name, has much the same physiological impact. This this goes for all those beautifully marketed and wellness influencer-touted healthiest sugars, too.

Just to note we’re talking about so-called “free sugars” here, NOT the sugars in fruit, veggies and milk/unsweetened dairy. Those sugars are an entirely different beast, bound up within the matrix (cellular structure) of the food. Their impact on the body is VERY different – in a good way! We shouldn’t be limiting these sugars at all…

Look, added sugar is NEVER going to be good for us – and consuming it is not a biological necessity (we don’t need fructose at all and our bodies can actually make their own glucose!). BUT does that mean we should eschew the white stuff entirely? If you can, and that’s realistic for you, then great! Personally, and for most people, this is unlikely to be a realistic or sustainable approach – let alone a recipe for a happy life…! As with all things, moderation is key, and I am a big advocate of the 80:20 approach.

Given baked goods should be an occasional treat, and sugar is eaten for pleasure, make that cake or cookie with the type you enjoy the taste of. Don’t buy choose the one that cost five times more because you have heard it is the healthiest sugar because, sorry folks, there ain’t no such thing! And remember: anything you make yourself – from real ingredients you can pronounce – is going to be infinitely healthier than an ultra-processed packaged equivalent! And not an artificial sweetener in sight.

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