The trend for ‘sugar-free’ cookery sounds like the answer to the need for all of us to go easy on the sugar. The trouble is that ‘sugar-free’ may not be all that it seems. Here’s the truth about sugar, its substitutes and all things sweetened.


‘Sugar’ is a generic name for simple carbohydrate compounds. Table sugar is sucrose, fruit sugar is glucose, sugar from milk is lactose and sugar from beer is maltose. 

The body breaks down all sugars to glucose, which is then stored in the tissues or used for body functions.


When it comes to the final use of sugar, the answer is ‘no’.

However, sugars from fruit or milk take longer to be broken down in the stomach, and there are additional nutrients there rather than the plain calories of refined sugar.

A piece of fruit may contain a lot of sugar, but it will take longer to eat and give you more nutrition than a chocolate biscuit.

Once the digestive process passes beyond the stomach, the effect of all sugars is exactly the same. The body will either store the sugar as fat or in glycogen, or use it immediately if needed.


It means that they should be taken with a pinch of, er, salt.

Many such recipes and diets substitute standard refined sugar with honey, agave syrup, maple syrup or other sources of sweetness. This makes no difference to the sugar content of the recipe nor does it reduce the calories.


These are extracted from plants or made artificially, and provide a sweet taste with few or no calories. Some sweeteners can have a bitter aftertaste.

They have been extensively tested and are not believed to be harmful.

The body needs sugar for growth and existence. The important thing is not to consume too much. That means recognising that all sugar is the same as far as your body is concerned. Sugar-free is not realistic, so don’t aim for the impossible!


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Simon J.
16 February 2018

Simon J.

no food is bad for you - too much of anything is bad for you! It does look like there's a typo as fruit sugar is indeed fructose, but the article is correct that it all ends up as glucose. And as Nicola says, fruit provides other nutrition whereas refined sugar on its own is just that. But too much fruit (even in the venerated smoothies) will still give you a lot of calories to burn off.

Nicola C.
14 February 2018

Nicola C.

Robin P - its all the same in the end - literally all "sugars" are broken down to glucose in the body, so it makes absolutely no difference to the body if its granulated sugar or a banana. That "natural" sugars are better, is pseudo-scientific bollocks (I have a biology degree btw). The only difference is that the fruit (for example) will also give you fibre, minerals and other goodies, where a spoonful of sugar, may help the medicine go down, but won't provide anything else.

Robin P.
14 February 2018

Robin P.

Is this article accurate? I thought fruit sugar was fructose, not glucose as stated. Also the article suggests all sugars the same (“Does the body treat different sugars in different way? Answer = No”) again my understanding is that there is a big difference between refined sugar (eg granulated table sugar) and natural sugar (eg as found in fruit), and that refined sugar is bad for you. Any article discussing sugar should surely point this out.

Would you like to post a comment? Please register or log in.

Log In Register

Share this

Popular Posts