#1 Raw and Brown Sugar Are Not Healthier

With a wide array of sugar options available today, many of us may feel confused at what the differences are. We might even believe raw or brown sugar is healthier than white sugar. Here are the facts on the various types of sugar.

White sugar

This is the most common type of sugar, and although they can be found in various forms such as white granulated sugar, caster, icing and powdered sugar, their compositions are identical.

They are extracted and refined from the natural sugars that occur in sugar cane and are 99.9% pure sucrose with no minerals.

Raw sugar

Also known as coffee sugar crystals, these golden-coloured sugar crystals are most commonly found in cafés. A common misconception about raw and brown sugar is that they are healthier than white sugars.

Raw sugar contains 99% sucrose, and even though there may be some minerals within, their health effects are almost negligible.

Brown sugar

Often used in baking, brown sugar contains 95% sucrose and 5% molasses, which is the reason for the toffee flavour and moistness.

Again, like raw sugar, they may have some minerals, but they contain no distinct nutritional advantage over white sugar.

#2 Not All Sugar Substitutes Are Equal

Sugar substitutes are also known as low-caloric or non-caloric sweeteners. Sugar substitutes can refer to either sugar alcohols, which are naturally present in plants or non-caloric sweeteners, which are chemical-based sweeteners.

Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol are often used in sugar-free sweets and beverages because they contain fewer calories than sugar. Non-caloric sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, have almost no calories and together with sugar alcohols do not contribute to tooth decay or affect blood glucose levels.

#3 You Should Always Read the Ingredients Label

When you walk around the supermarket today, you are likely to come across product packages claiming, “sugar-free”, “no added sugar”, “unsweetened”, and so on.

Fruits also contain sugar, namely glucose and fructose.

While these terms are factual, they do not actually provide any nutritional information on the product. For example, “no added sugar” simply means that no extra sugar was added during the manufacturing process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the product has fewer calories, since the product itself may be naturally high in sugars like fructose in fruits or lactose in milk.

A more useful method for deciphering a product is to look at food labels, or more specifically, its Nutritional Information Panel (NIP). This will give you a better indication of a product’s nutritional benefits. Look for items such as minerals, vitamins and fibre. Otherwise, you are merely consuming empty calories.

Another thing to note when looking at ingredient labels is that sugar comes in many forms and terms. These include evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup and molasses.

It may also be useful to know that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If these terms for sugar are on the top of the list, the product is likely to be high in added sugar content.

#4 Eating Too Much Sugar Increases the Risk of Health Problems

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 (DMT2) and Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM). Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children, where for unknown reasons, the body does not produce insulin. GDM occurs in pregnant ladies. Type 2 diabetes is the one where diet can play a contributing factor, so let’s look at it more closely.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is insulin-resistant. This occurs more frequently among people over 40 years of age, in particular, those who are overweight. Today, more children and young adults are developing Type 2 diabetes, which could be a result of poor dietary habits.

A diet high in sugar increases the risk of diabetes and other health problems.

Since a high-sugar diet is known to cause weight gain by converting excess sugar into fats, it makes sense for you to start cutting down on sugar. If you are 40 years old and above, you are advised to go for health screenings to check your fasting blood glucose levels once every three years, or as advised by your doctor.

#5 Reducing Sugar Makes a Difference

Besides diabetes, other health problems related to excessive sugar intake include obesity and heart disease. You can reduce such risks by reducing sugar in your diet.

Reducing Sugar By Tweaking Your Habits

  1. Have your coffee and tea without sugar. It may take you a while to get used to it. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you are able to taste more of the coffee or tea’s natural sweetness. Start off by slowly reducing the amount of sugar each day. It is better to do it gradually than put yourself off by going cold turkey.
  2. If you don’t like the taste of water, you can try fruit/herb-infused water. Fruit/herb-infused water tastes great, contains almost no calories and even has vitamins. Experiment with different fruits and herbs to find a taste that you enjoy, such as lemon, spearmint and watermelon.
  3. Identify the foods that you have problems controlling. There may be certain drinks or snacks that you find hard to resist. Take a conscious effort not to stock up on these, or to put these out of your reach.

Choose water or fruit-infused water over sugary beverages.

Reducing Sugar When Dining Out

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to have regular meals at home, you can still make good choices when dining outside to reduce your sugar intake.

  1. If dining at a hawker centre, look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol, which can be found on the stall’s cleanliness and hygiene label. The Healthier Choice Symbol means that the stall offers wholegrain options, uses healthier oils or offer food that contains fewer calories.
  2. Choose brown rice whenever possible. Brown rice has more fibre than white rice, which means it sits in your tummy longer, helping you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. Wholegrains such as brown rice also help lower the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
  3. Opt for sugar-free or less-sweet drinks instead of sugary soft drinks if you must have something other than water.
  4. If you’re having dessert, opt for fresh fruit instead of ice cream. You’ll still enjoy that sweet taste, but it contains a lot more nutrients than just pure sugar.

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