Breaking Through The Noise on Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

I often speak with mums and dads who are at their wits end when it comes to sugar. The foods we are sold in supermarkets are bombarded with processed sugars, and now more often artificial sugars, and both of these are cause for concern.

With the World Health Organisation in 2015 releasing a guideline on the recommend intake of sugar for adults and children, it became apparent that the world is addicted to sugar. This guideline called for an intake of less than 25g grams of free sugars, which when compared to the average Australian intake of 112.5g highlights a major problem (Canada: 110g, NZ: 154.15g, USA: 210g)!

This has led to a shift in consumption habits which are a cause for concern, rather than removing the offending food option from their diet, many consumers are reaching for the "sugar free" equivalent. Many of these lab produced sugar replacements are not only dubious in terms of their health effects, they also can cause an insulin response. This is your bodies way of dealing with sugars in the gut and when there is no sugar to deal with it can reduce your blood sugar levels (which generally has people reaching for some real sugar, in turn defeating their attempts to avoid processed sugar!).

In this blog I wanted to cover off on all the ways processed sugars and artificial sugars are presented to us - I also want to highlight which options are OK to use (in absolute moderation) within your 25g limit.

Processed & Refined Natural Sugar

It is most important to remember here, refined sugars are sugar, no matter where they are sourced from! They are extracted in ways that we would not normally consume. Sugars marked with an ❌ are heavily refined and processed and should be avoided. Those marked with a ✅ are lightly processed and OK (in ABSOLUTE moderation, keeping in mind the 25g guide), and also offer nutritional benefits alongside the sugars.

  1. Brown Rice Syrup ✅/❌ (I use this very rarely, it is still heavily refined and heavily processed, it just happens to contain no fructose. It is the doyen for many sugar free advocates.)
  2. Fruit Juice Concentrate ❌
  3. Fruit Juice ❌
  4. Sugar ❌
  5. Invert Sugar ❌
  6. Cane Sugar ❌
  7. Cane Juice ❌
  8. Evaporated Cane Juice (Rapadura) ✅ (this is a lightly processed sugar, still containing valuable vitamins and minerals, it's just missing the fibre that you would get if you chewed on some sugar cane!)
  9. Raw Cane Sugar ❌
  10. Brown Sugar ❌
  11. Beet Sugar ❌
  12. Palm Sugar ❌
  13. Date Sugar ❌
  14. Coconut Sugar ✅ (Organic coconut sugar is lightly processed, incredibly nutritious and has a lower amounts of fructose)
  15. Coconut Syrup ✅
  16. Barley Malt❌
  17. Malt Syrup ❌
  18. Rice Bran Syrup ❌
  19. Corn Syrup ❌
  20. Corn Syrup Solids ❌
  21. High Fructose Corn Syrup ❌
  22. Dextrose ❌
  23. Maltodextrin ❌
  24. Glucose ❌
  25. Glucose Solids ❌
  26. Fructose ❌
  27. Sucrose ❌
  28. Maltose ❌
  29. Lactose ❌
  30. Galactose ❌
  31. Honey ✅ (Raw, unheated, organic honey should be used as a treat every now and then)
  32. Maple Syrup ✅ (High quality maple syrup is OK, in moderation! It contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals too, don't pour too much on those pancakes though!)
  33. Agave ❌
  34. Sorghum Syrup ❌
  35. Diastatic Malt ❌
  36. Molasses ✅ (Not super sweet, but an amazing Vitamin B source!)
  37. Caramel ❌
  38. Treacle ❌
  39. Golden Syrup ❌
  40. Panocha ❌
  41. Muscovado Sugar ❌
  42. Turbinado Sugar ❌
  43. Demerara Sugar ❌
  44. Sucanat ❌
  45. Rapadura ✅ (See above)
  46. Jaggery ❌
  47. Panela ❌
  48. Monk Fruit / Luo Han Guo ❌

Artificial Sugar

To cut to the chase on artificial sugars, avoid them completely. Simple really, these are lab-created and heavily processed (even Xylitol and most Stevia's!). Nonetheless, this list allows you to identify which sugars are artificial (and hidden in many foods):

  1. Acesulphame-K (950) ❌
  2. Aspartame (951) ❌
  3. Cyclamate (952) ❌
  4. Saccharin (954) ❌
  5. Sucralose (955) ❌
  6. Sorbitol (420) ❌
  7. Mannitol (421) ❌
  8. Isomalt (953) ❌
  9. Maltitol or hydrogenated glucose syrup (965) ❌
  10. Lactitol (966) ❌
  11. Xylitol (967) ❌
  12. Erythritol (968) ❌
  13. Polydextrose (1200) ❌
  14. Stevia ❌
  15. Xylitol ❌

There is a myriad of ways to reduce your free sugar intake, which is for another blog post (maybe next week!?). The best sources of sweetness in your life are whole fruits and vegetables, feeling like something sweet, grab one of those convenient packets that grow on trees! More on reducing your sugar intake next week :)