Written by: Annie McCabe

As a Dietetics student, the topic of sugar has come to the table many times. Sugar and its use is a controversial topic. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is converted by the body into glucose and then used for energy. However, not all sugar is created equally. It is important to learn about and identify the different types of sugar. Then examine your diet and check ingredient labels for natural sugars and added sugars.

So, what is the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar?

Natural Sugars

Naturally occurring sugar is found in two forms, lactose which is found in milk and fructose, which is found in fruit. Consuming natural sugars is crucial because they are found in whole foods, which are key from a nutritional standpoint. Consuming whole foods provides you with nutrients such as Vitamin D, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber. These nutrients are hard to find in foods with added sugars.

Added Sugars

Added sugar is sugar removed from their original source and added to food and drink. It can be added for many reasons including flavor, fermentation, and to avoid spoilage. It is important to note that natural sugars, such as fructose can be used as an added sugar. For example, the sugar you add to your coffee is also added sugar. Food manufacturers are not mandated to separate naturally occurring sugars and added sugars on a food label. However, by knowing what to look for on an ingredient list you can reduce your added sugar intake. Doing so helps with overall health and wellbeing. Keep an eye out for words such as, but not limited to, agave syrup, cane syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, molasses, and fruit juice concentrates.

Why this matters?

The body metabolizes natural sugar differently than it processes added sugar. Added sugar is broken down rapidly causing a spike in both insulin and blood sugar levels. Natural sugars, which contain fiber, slows down metabolism thereby decreasing the spike in insulin and blood sugar levels and leading to a full feeling.

Next time you’re out at the grocery store, #DoMore , and look at food labels. Familiarize yourself with the different names for added sugars and work on taking baby steps to decreasing your added sugar intake.