Raw Sugar vs. Refined Sugar
When you walk down the baking aisle, you’re probably assaulted with all the sugar options.
There’s the classic white, refined sugar, in addition to brown sugar. There are all the artificial sweeteners – you know the varieties. Equal, Splenda, Sweet N’ Low. Lately, we’ve been seeing even more options. We’ve been seeing stevia, agave syrups, honey, and various “raw” sugars.
So, what is the best type of sweetener to use? And does it really make a difference in your blood sugar levels? Well, friends here is the latest research.
Is There a Difference in How Raw and Refined Sugar Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but emptying a “raw” sugar packet in your morning coffee does not make it any healthier.
Sugar is still sugar, regardless of the label on the packet. It is calorically identical and will have the same effect on your blood glucose levels.
According to Mother Jones, “The main difference between the two is in the boiling of the cane juice: The juice for refined sugar is boiled several times to remove all the molasses, whereas Turbinado sugar [raw sugar] is boiled only once.”
Turbinado sugar does contain trace amounts of calcium, potassium, and iron, but the debate is out as to whether these small amounts actually are beneficial. Consider the amount of raw sugar you put into your cup of coffee - that is not a whole of these micronutrients that you are consuming!
Ultimately, if you choose to consume raw sugar instead of refined sugar, it is a personal choice. The texture is different, so this may be something you prefer. The taste may also be a bit different, due to the small amount of molasses that is left in the sugar.
Just know that if you choose to consume sugar, in any capacity, you must account for it, as it will still have an effect on your blood glucose levels.
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So… What Should You Use Instead?
You can find new “research” every day regarding the sugar substitutes.
The fact of the matter is that there is no conclusive evidence regarding sugar substitutes – you’ll find one research study concluding that sugar substitute A is perfectly safe, while that same sub is linked to side effect X, Y and Z.
So what can you do with this information?
You can use the sugar substitutes – but use them in moderation. This means if you like your morning cup of coffee sweetened, use a sugar substitute (or two), but perhaps not more than that. Enjoy your diet soda – but limit it to one per day.
There is one sugar substitute that carries a warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); aspartame (found in Equal and NutraSweet) can negatively affect people who have the inability to metabolize phenylalanine, which is an amino acid that is found in this sweetener. However, this condition only affects one in 25,000 people.
What if You Don’t Want to Use Artificial Sweeteners?
I’ve worked with plenty of people who emphatically will not, under any circumstances, use artificial sweeteners. Which is perfectly fine with me. I’ve come to learn, over my years of working with practice, that there are “non-negotiable” behaviors – and people’s views on artificial sweeteners are often non-negotiable.
This is when we review the carb grams in “real” sugar – raw and refined are the same. For someone who still wants that sweetened cup of coffee in the morning, figuring out how much sugar will go into their cup of coffee is essential, while figuring out how to balance it with the rest of their breakfast!
There are other options as well – for example, stevia is recognized by the FDA as a tabletop sweetener, but is purified from the stevia plant, rather than artificially made. We can also discuss the use of other sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar, although they will have carbohydrates, similar to table sugar.
The Bottom Line…
Sugar is sugar is sugar, regardless the form it is consumed. Refined sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey – all will have a similar effect on blood glucose levels.
There are plenty of other options to sweeten foods, should you choose to use them, and they are best used in moderation.