Natural Sugar or Artificial Sugar? What is Really Good For Your Health

Not all types of sugar are metabolised by the body in the same manner. While all sugars ultimately break down into glucose, the body may metabolise them at varying rates depending on their chemical composition. So, keep reading to know which one is better.

By URLife Team
01 May 2024

After becoming aware of the reality of sugar and how it impacts our bodies, one thing we made peace with is the fact that sugar is not as sweet for our bodies as it is on our tongues. Knowing this has made many transitions from "one spoon or two?" to "yellow packet or blue?" Yes, we're talking about sugar substitutes, or sweeteners used in place of sugar. When they first appeared on the market, sugar substitutes felt like the solution to our never-ending concern. But various studies released since the introduction of artificial sugar has shown otherwise. And should we be choosing sugar, artificial sweeteners, or natural sweeteners? Keep reading to know the answer to this.


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Is Sugar Bad For You?

Sugar is not always the culprit when consumed mindfully. It is not inherently bad, rather it is necessary for our body as it runs on sugar. Considering the nutritional profile, sugar does not have much to offer you in terms of your health.


When you eat food with carbohydrates, like fruits, dairy, and grains, your body turns a lot of it into sugar called glucose. Your cells then use this glucose for energy. It's not good to cut out these natural sources of sugar and carbs from your diet because they have important nutrients.


Instead of cutting out these foods, you can choose where the sweetness in your diet comes from. This means you can pick foods that have natural sugars, like fruits and dairy, which also give you other good stuff your body needs. That is the reason it is always recommended to reduce added sugar intake rather than cutting out all sugar. Added sugar is the extra sugar put into foods to make them sweeter, like the sugar in cookies or the honey on yoghurt. It's different from the natural sugar found in foods like fruits and milk.


Natural sugar comes with vitamins and minerals that help balance out its effects. For example, the fibre in fruit slows down sugar absorption in our bodies.
So, it's okay to enjoy whole fruits and plain dairy, like milk or unsweetened yoghurt. However it's important to be cautious with added sugar sources like desserts, sugary drinks, and packaged foods. These are the things you should watch out for and try to limit in your diet.


Consider an example: If you had to choose between oranges, orange juice, and orange soda, which would you pick? The labels might make you think that orange juice is the healthiest option because it doesn't list any added sugar. But here's the thing: even though the sugar in orange juice comes from fruit, it can still be a lot. That's because when fruit is turned into juice, its natural sugars get concentrated. So the best way is to consume orange fruit as a whole.


A medium-sized orange has about 10-13 grams of sugar. That means approximately 470 ml. glass of orange juice could have as much sugar as four oranges! If you were eating the actual fruit, you probably wouldn't eat that much in one sitting. Plus, when you eat whole fruit, you get the benefit of consuming fibre, which helps you feel full and stops you from eating too much. The fibre also slows down how quickly your body absorbs the sugar, so you don't get a sudden spike in blood sugar levels like you might from drinking juice. So, when it comes to oranges, it's best to go for the whole fruit instead of the juice.


Related story: The Diabetes Guide: How To Balance Your Blood Sugar


Whether a sweetener is good or bad for you depends on how much of it you're eating. It's essential to remember that having too many calories, especially from "added" sugars (ones that aren't naturally in foods), can lead to health issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. So, regardless of where your sugar comes from, it's crucial to keep an eye on how much you're consuming to stay healthy.


Natural Sugar

Natural sugar present in many foods gets the green light. Sugarcane and beet sugar are the main sources of table sugar and many natural sweeteners. They contain two types of sugar: fructose and sucrose. When we eat these sugars, our bodies turn them into glucose, which gives us energy.


However, because sugarcane and beet sugar go through a lot of processing, they lose most of their nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So, while they add calories to our diet, they don't offer much else in terms of nutrition. But they are still considered better than artificial sugar because they are derived from natural sources and are metabolised by the body in a similar way to other carbohydrates. Additionally, they have been consumed by humans for centuries, unlike artificial sugars which are relatively recent additions to the human diet and may have unknown long-term health effects.


Also, plant-based foods containing sugar come with fibre, and dairy comes with protein. The fibre helps in regulating digestion, promoting a feeling of fullness, and slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can help stabilise blood sugar levels. Dried fruit has natural sugars, unless it has sugar or other sweeteners added to it. Eat these foods as part of a plant-based diet, not only to limit sugar, but to ensure you get all the different nutrients you need.


Artificial Sugar

According to a 2023 study published by Nature Medicine, there is a strong link between some sweeteners containing erythritol to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clotting.


You might be surprised and amazed by the fact that artificial sweeteners come with no (with fewer in some cases) calories. You must be wondering what could be better. But this is not the whole truth. Artificial sugars, like those found in many diet sodas and sugar-free products, may seem like a good choice for cutting calories, but that is not what the studies and research say.


Artificial sweeteners are designed to taste like sugar but with very few or no calories. Most of the artificial sweeteners have fewer than 3 calories per teaspoon. Compare that to one teaspoon of sugar, which has 16 calories. They are considered a game-changer for people living with diabetes because they don't affect your blood sugar level in the same way as sugar.


That being said, the long-term effects are known to be more detrimental than natural sugar. Another major issue with artificial sweeteners is that they can be up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. The result is that they completely bombard your nervous system with that dopamine-releasing sweetness.


Related story: 7 Ways To Control High Blood Sugar In The Morning


While artificial sweeteners offer sweetness without any calories, research suggests they may disrupt metabolic processes, alter gut microbiota, and even increase the risk of conditions like metabolic syndrome and cancer. Despite their low-calorie or zero-calorie nature, they might still contribute to weight gain indirectly by influencing cravings for sweeter foods or disrupting the body's ability to regulate calorie intake effectively.


Furthermore, artificial sweeteners might confuse your body. When you consume them, your taste buds register sweetness, but because they don't contain any calories, your body doesn't get the energy it expects. This can throw off your hunger signals, making you more likely to overeat in the long run. So, while artificial sweeteners may seem like a good alternative to sugar, it's essential to use them sparingly and be mindful of their potential impact on your health.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


While natural sugars found in whole foods offer essential nutrients and fibre, artificial sugars present potential health risks and may disrupt metabolic processes. Moderation and mindful consumption remain key in navigating the complexities of sugar intake, with an emphasis on prioritising whole, nutrient-rich foods for optimal health.



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