Natural Vs Refined Sugar: Nutritionist Decodes The Difference



Excess consumption of sugar can lead to weight gain


  • White sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar are forms of refined sugar
  • Fruits can offer you natural sugar
  • Berries are lowest in natural sugar

Simply put, sugar is a form of simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effect on the body and overall health depends on the type of sugar one is eating, either natural or refined. Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and as lactose in dairy products, such as milk and cheese. They contain essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease. The natural sources of sugar are digested slower and help you feel full for longer. It also helps keep your metabolism stable.

Natural vs refined sugar

Refined sugar such as: white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. All these sugars mainly come from plants but have been processed in some way to a simple, sweet form, thus they are processed or refined. Due to which an increase in the consumption of refined sugar has led to the rise in obesity rates, which is associated with higher risks of cancer.

Fibre is a huge key.

When sugar from fruit is taken up, the fiber that comes with it slows down the absorption rate of sugar. This is so, because natural sugars found in whole foods don’t increase blood sugar levels as fast as refined sugar. Adding up, to help slow down the absorption of the fruit even more is to pair your fruit with a meal, including a protein.

Also read: What Should Your Summer Plate Look Like? Nutritionist Nmami Agarwal Reveals

Berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are lowest in natural sugar, while the highest are dried fruits, bananas, and mangoes. Fruit juices are also high in sugar, so opt for whole fruit instead. Even though if one consumes the same number of calories from whole fruit and juice, the metabolic effects are very different. Thus, metabolically speaking, juice is more or less similar to soda than it is to whole fruit.


Fruits are loaded with natural sugar and fibre
Photo Credit: iStock

Metabolism Matters

The way body metabolizes the sugar in fruit and milk differs from how it metabolizes the refined sugar added to processed foods. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Because refined sugar is digested quickly, one doesn’t feel full after you’re done eating, no matter how many calories you consumed. Hence, the fiber present in fruit brings down metabolism, as fruit in the digestive tract expands to make you feel full.

To understand better about added and natural sugar, the best piece of advice we have now is to simply eat less sugar, with the whole fruit as a notable exception to this rule. Ideally, our diets should be low in sugar and high in fibre, consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Also read: Signs And Symptoms You Are Having Too Much Sugar

Thus, there is not much difference between sugar that is present in food naturally and the one that is added. Yet, how it’s presented to the body, what comes with it, and the quantity is masks much, much difference.

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