Confused about the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars?  With so much information out there lately, it’s not surprising. So what’s the real deal? Is honey on your pancakes really better than golden syrup, or are all sugars public enemy no.1?


All of the natural sweeteners such as molasses, milk, honey, fruit and maple syrup are still made from sugar. There is a surprising amount of sugar in ‘natural’ food: A 240ml serving of milk contains 14g (nearly 3 tsp) of sugar, while a banana contains a similar amount.

The sugar that’s in an apple is made up of around 50/50 fructose and glucose, just like refined table sugar. Other natural sugars are found in dairy products (lactose), maple syrup (sucrose), and honey (fructose and glucose). The sweetener agave nectar is natural, yet very high in fructose, which some people consider damaging.

Whatever form it comes in, sugar is a simple carbohydrate that can be used for energy, and will cause blood sugar levels to rise. This triggers your body to release a load of insulin, sending sugars to your tissues, often storing it as fat.


The speed at which sugar is absorbed could be the key to deciding which is better for us.

How do you feel after eating a chocolate bar vs a banana? The first has no fibre to slow down its digestion so is rapidly absorbed, causing a sugar rush, quickly followed by a sugar ‘crash’, creating a craving for more sugar and a vicious circle.

Whole fruit, in contrast, although high in fructose, is real food often packed with fibre which slows down the absorption of glucose, thus avoiding the energy spike/slump.  Plus there are the antioxidants, nutrients and water to hydrate you. It’s hard to overeat whole fruit and this limits how much sugar you get from it.


Unfortunately, these natural sweeteners don’t come packaged quite as well as fruit, lacking the fibre and water to eat in bulk. While natural sugars do contain more nutrients than refined sugar, unfortunately it’s not in amounts to make much difference. Honey contains only 2% vitamins and minerals, while you’d have to have five tablespoons of maple syrup to get your RDA of calcium.

Our advice? Just enjoy natural sweeteners in small amounts, eat sensible amounts of fruit, and satisfy that intense sweet craving with sticky dates and nut butter.


The Author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for PayasUgym. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.


Sean S.
26 April 2017

Sean S.

I eat plenty of sugar, refined and natural, and have zero health issues. I exercise regularly and am relaxed and happy - I believe that's the way to a healthy body - not worrying about exactly how much sugar we eat.

Paula C.
9 April 2017

Paula C.

No - not all sugar is bad! The sugar we get from fruit, and even maple syrup. in small amounts is good for us. It's the amount some people eat that's dangerous for us. And that's because sugar is addictive.

george h.
6 April 2017

george h.

All sugar is BAD!!!!!

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