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Sugar in Fruit vs Added Sugar: What’s The Difference?

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We talk about the downsides of added sugar a lot. We’re referring to refined sugar, the pure substance that is added to most nutrition bars, not sugar that naturally occurs in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables.    

Because we use dates and bananas as sweeteners in our dough, one of the top questions I get as a nutritionist is “how is the sugar in fruit any different from refined sugar?”

First, bravo for asking questions about ingredients in your food! Second, good question. At the molecular level, the components of sugar– fructose and glucose– are the same in whole foods and pure sugar.  What’s different is the “packaging” that these sugars come in and that makes all the difference. Check out the table below:

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The way sugar is handled by the body depends on whether it comes with or without other nutrients. You may think that you and others you know rarely eat white sugar alone, but take a minute to think about the products that contain added sugars: protein bars, condiments, yogurt, pasta sauce, ice cream, crackers. . . what do they have in common? A lack of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to help your body process the sugar in a way that doesn’t do harm. 

To put this into context, consider the following: three Oreos contain the same amount of sugar as one banana. But do you really think the sugar from Oreos has the same effect as the sugar from a banana?

So don’t just look at the amount of ‘Sugars’ on the nutrition label, consider the source. Because not all sugar is created equal.; Rolfes, S. R., Pinna, K. & Whitney, E. (2009). Understanding normal and clinical nutrition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth

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