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Natural sugars: all fables and facts at a glance!

  1. Honey, date syrup or coconut blossom sugar. These are just a small selection of the dozens of natural sugars that have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many people have these types of products in their kitchen cupboards as a healthy alternative to regular sugar.

  1. That sounds positive at first, because we all know that too much sugar is not good for you. But are those natural sugars really that much better? Or is it better to use honey and date syrup in moderation? We put all the information together in this article!

The problem of sugar

  1. Let's start at the beginning: why is sugar so in the hell these days? In short, it has many disadvantages, not advantages. Refined granulated sugar does not actually contain any vitamins and minerals, and thus makes no useful contribution to the functioning of your body.

  1. However, it does create a lot of problems. Sugar causes large fluctuations in your blood sugar. As a result, you get hungry again soon after a meal, so you eat too much one day. Overweight is the result in the long run.

  1. Various other problems are also partly due to an excessive sugar intake. Cardiovascular diseases, for example, and certain old-age diseases such as Alzheimer's. Sugar further increases your need for certain vitamins and minerals, making you more likely to have deficiencies.

Is all sugar bad?

  1. Does that mean that sugar is deadly and that you are not allowed to eat another grain? No, it is not that bad. Your body can really process some sugar if your diet is generally healthy and complete. So if you want a piece of cake every now and then, you really shouldn't be afraid of spontaneous heart problems.

  1. It is only important to keep an eye on the balance. The Nutrition Center, for example, uses a maximum of 5% of your daily energy from added sugars. If you eat 2000 kcal daily, that is 100 kcal, or 25 grams of sugar. A lot of people go over that, and that becomes unhealthy.

Natural sugars

  1. Reducing sugar is often a good idea. Yet that often turns out to be more difficult than it seems in practice. Because sweet food is simply delicious, and that means you keep on snacking…

  1. Now you often read that there is a simple solution for this: natural sugars. The idea is that products like honey, fruit syrups and other natural sweeteners would be healthier because they come straight from nature. Your body would suffer less damage as a result.

  1. And that's a popular idea! You often see enthusiastically stated on packaging that a product is only sweetened with natural sugars. And food blogs like to show off â € healthyâ € ™ treats that contain large amounts of honey and fruit syrups.

Are natural sugars healthy?

  1. But the question then is: are those recipes actually that much healthier? Or are natural sugars actually not much better than sweeteners with regular sugar? Below we discuss four arguments that are often used to conclude that natural sugars are healthier.

  1. For many people, natural sugars are healthier just because they are said to be more natural. The idea is that less edited is always better. This idea does not come out of the blue: often highly processed foods are indeed less healthy, especially because they add a lot of sugars and unhealthy fats.

  1. But edits aren't necessarily bad either! Sometimes they even make your food healthier. For example, fermented food is processed - yoghurt really doesn't come straight from the cow - but it is precisely that fermentation that makes it so healthy. And removing fat from low-fat dairy is also a godsend for many people.

  1. In addition, natural sugars themselves are by no means always natural! Honey and syrups are often heated strongly, and fruit syrups, in particular, have been thoroughly squeezed and reduced to form them. This makes them not much more natural than cane sugar, which also simply comes from a plant…

  1. A frequently heard argument is also that natural sugars would have less effect on your blood sugar level. However, that is almost always untrue. The sugars in honey and syrups are still just simple glucose and fructose particles. These are immediately absorbed into your blood, and thus still cause a heavy sugar peak.

  1. There may be a few exceptions, such as coconut blossom sugar, where some measurements indicate a lower glycemic index. However, no consensus has yet been reached on this either: other sources indicate a higher GI. So this argument is not very reliable!

  1. Then there is the point that natural sugars contain more vitamins and minerals than normal sugar. True, in granulated sugar there are practically no useful substances. The bad news is that the same is true for most honey and syrups. Most varieties hardly contain any nutrients, especially due to heating.

  1. If you choose very fresh, cold prepared honey, the amount of nutrients will be slightly higher. Even then, however, the difference with regular sugar is small. As the Netherlands Nutrition Center indicates: there are some healthy substances, but not enough to make a significant contribution to your health.

  1. Finally, it is often claimed that natural sugars contain fewer calories than regular sugar. You would therefore be less likely to become overweight. However, this argument too sounds better than it is.

  1. The only reason that, for example, honey is less high in calories than cane sugar, is that it consists partly of water. As a result, it is somewhat diluted, and therefore produces less energy per hundred grams. However, the sweetening power is therefore also slightly less, so that people often use more and thus on balance consume the same amount of calories.

Sugar is sugar!

  1. In short: if you put everything together, then natural sugars are not necessarily healthier than the regular table sugar that you find in most households. Of course, that doesn't mean you should never use them: just like with regular sugar, a little doesn't hurt.

  1. Be aware, however, that it is not a license to keep eating endless sweets. Honey, date syrup and agave all fall even below that limit of about 5% of your calories.

Is fruit healthy sugar?

  1. We do have to go into one particular case here: fruit. It also contains a lot of fructose and glucose - and yes, fruit sugar is still sugar. So you would expect it to cause the same problems as other forms of added and â € naturalâ € ™ sugars.

  1. However, this turns out not to be the case. Fruit does contain many other nutrients in addition to those sugars, including a lot of fiber. These help your body digest the sugar, compensating for the disadvantages. Fruit is also actually packed with vitamins and minerals.

  1. Research shows that eating 2-3 pieces of fruit improves your health. The risk of many conditions, including obesity and cardiovascular problems, is reduced. However, it is wise not to eat more than 3 pieces a day: in large quantities fructose can cause problems.

Note: only fresh fruit!

  1. Please also note that we are specifically talking about fresh fruit. That is really quite different from, for example, fruit sugar syrups or even fruit juice. In such products, only the sugars from the fruit remain, and other substances - such as fiber - have disappeared. While it is precisely those additives that ensure that fruit is healthier than regular sugar.

  1. So preferably choose whole fruit - dried or frozen is fine too. Smoothies are also fine (in moderation): they retain a lot of the fiber. But other fruit products, such as juice, jam and syrup, should not be considered healthy options!

Healthy sweet food

  1. In short, what is wisdom if you want to eat sweets now and then? To begin with, it is wise to get your diet in order as a whole. Many of the products you find in the supermarket contain added sugars - including foods you wouldn't expect! As a result, people unconsciously ingest a lot of sugar.

  1. Can you prevent this by cooking with unprocessed products as much as possible? Then you have a lot more â € spaceâ € ™ left to just have an ice cream or a piece of cake every now and then. As said, sugar really doesn't have to be poison, as long as you eat it in moderation.

  1. If you'd rather eat something sweet than 'now and then', fruit will save you. There are countless recipes that use fresh fruit as a sweetener: think banana bread, frozen yogurt with red fruit, and so on. By cooking with it yourself, you don't need any â € healthyâ € ™ natural sugars like honey and agave!

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