Sugar! What’s the difference between added and natural sugars?

I get asked a lot about the difference between natural sugars and added sugars. So here we go!

In the picture from the top left:
55 raisins
4 tsps of brown sugar
4 dates
1 medium sized pear
5 feijoas
Each item is 16 grams of sugar which is the same as 4 tsps.

Naturally Occurring Sugars:
The pear and 5 feijoas have 4 tsps of naturally occurring sugars. Sugars that are in them because they grew that way. They are a great whole food snack, full of fibre, water, vitamin c and other important nutrients. The fruit is digested slowly, so the sugar doesn’t hit your blood stream too quickly. Other foods that have naturally occurring sugars are milk and yoghurt (they contain naturally occurring lactose).

The dates and raisins contain a lot of naturally occurring sugars. It depends on who you are and how you eat, as to whether these are worth including in your diet. If you’re a growing active kid, then having dried fruit in bliss balls or baking (etc) is probably a good source of energy. If you are needing to lose weight or not very active, then, it’s probably not a good idea to eat too much of this stuff. Technically, these contain natural sugars, you could argue that when added in baking instead of normal sugars, they are added sugars…. it all comes down to perspective. Either way you don’t want to be eating masses of the stuff.

Added Sugars:
Added sugars are processed sugars that have been deliberately added to a processed food or in baking (etc) for sweetness, texture (like meringue and pavlova) or to preserve it (like jam). The 4 tsps of brown sugars is an example of added sugars. Other types of added sugars are:
Coconut sugar
Agave syrup
Rice malt syrup
Corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrate
Raw sugar
Invert sugar
Icing sugar
Maple syrup
Golden syrup
Barley malt
Beet sugar
These sugars are commonly added into processed foods for a variety of reasons. Often foods have more than one type of sugar added and can have more than 10 types of added sugars in one food! So it pays to read the labels!

Moral of the story?

Sugars that are naturally occurring in foods, like dairy and fruit, are fine to eat, when you like. However, if you are eating 10 nectarines a day, you may want to cut it back and swap for some veggies! Dates and raisins and other dried fruits have lots of naturally occurring sugars, be mindful of how much of these you are eating.

Avoid added sugars as much as possible. Aim for 6 teaspoons a day of Added Sugars for grown ups, or 3 teaspoons a day for kiddies (World Health Organisation recommendations, from 2015).