The natural sugar halo

by Kim on November 11, 2014

I’m definitely guilty of thinking that as long as I’m eating natural sugar, and not the evil white stuff, I’m being healthy. But the more I research and think about this, the more I realize the sad, sad, SAD (it deserves 3 sads) truth:

Sugar is sugar.

Sure, it’s better for our overall health to bypass the highly processed versions of sugar, but when it comes to using sugar for energy (or—*shiver*—storing it as fat), our bodies don’t know the difference between a pile of table sugar and a few tablespoons of honey.


(This guy isn’t always earning his halo either.)

Did you know that honey has almost as much sugar in it as high fructose corn syrup?

Here’s the breakdown:

Honey: about 30% glucose, 40% fructose

High fructose corn syrup: about 42% glucose, 55% fructose

(the rest is water and some other sugars)

I used to think I was a pretty decent label reader, after almost three years of skimming for foods my son’s allergic to, but sugar is in a league of its own. Unlike common allergen foods, companies aren’t required to list it using its plain name, so you won’t see the word “sugar” anywhere on labels of some foods that are secretly loaded with the stuff.

First, there’s the fact that sugar has about a gazillion secret spy names (check out this list), but there’s also sugar in innocent-looking foods like fruit and milk (fructose and lactose), where it’s not specifically listed at all. So when we pick up those containers of juice that say “100% juice” and “no added sugar”—even if there’s only one ingredient (like oranges)—we have to realize that just the fact that it’s concentrated fruit means it has a high sugar content.

It doesn’t help that the word “sugar free” is thrown around like crazy. Lindsay recently wrote a great post about this, but basically, people will sometimes say “sugar free” when they mean “refined sugar free.” There’s often still honey, maple syrup, fruit, or something similar in it. (Even dates, the healthy living world’s golden children, have 19 grams of sugar per ounce, just 4 fewer than honey!)

Recipes that only use artificial sweeteners (including stevia, the “natural fake” sugar) are technically sugar free, but then you run into the whole “eating fake food” conundrum…

Are you depressed yet?

Me too. Trust me, I love sugar just as much as the next girl.

There are some treat recipes that are truly, really, actually 100% sugar free—and since I started the 10-day no sugar challenge, you bet I’ve been hunting them down.

For example, I mentioned these last week. They’re chocolatey, but not sweet—for me, it’s just enough to take the edge off. I think it’s more the ritual of eating sweets (specifically after meals) that I’m addicted to, so having a sugarless option around lets me continue that without sabotaging the challenge. Plus, after I have one or two, there’s none of that desperate gotta-eat-the-whole-batch feeling I have to fight with sugary treats.

Anyway, my point is: we have to stop putting a halo over natural sugars. They might not be quite the monsters their processed counterparts are, but they’re still just as good at making us fat.

And speaking of fat…fat is actually pretty darn good for us! It’s nourishing and satiating, and it doesn’t make our insulin production go nuts.

So if this post brought you down, go treat yourself to a nice buttery steak and a slab of bacon. It’ll be ok!

Have you ever tried a completely sugarless treat?

If so, do you have a favorite?




{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Presley @ Run Pretty November 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I think I just read this going “la la laaaa” the entire time.

KIDDING. I know I need to step my sugar game up, if only for Maddux. We definitely bond over sweets (I’m only have kidding this time). It’s bad.
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Kim November 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Well my #1 reason for doing the detox is “to say I did it” so I’m definitely no hero. And my son and I bond over a shared love of mindless TV, so pick your poison I guess. :)


char eats greens November 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I think going sugar-free would be the next big test I ever did in the food world. I’d like to see if I can do it! I, of course, would need sugar-free replacement recipes like you were speaking about because I think it’s the routine of having something after dinner, too. (Even though it’s currently afternoon and I’m ready for ice-cream haha!)
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Kim November 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Yep, that’s the biggest reason I’m doing it–to see if I can! :) So far so good, but 8 long days to go…

You should definitely try it! If nothing else, it helps you tune into how much sugar you’re actually having and what makes you want it. :)


Giselle November 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Great post! I definitely give in to natural sweeteners which is why I was feeling the need to detox. Honey almond milk latte? Sure! Paleo Brownies made with maple syrup? Why not? So far (yeah it’s only day two) I’m doing good with not having any natural sweeteners nor cravings for them. I did stick my spoon in the coconut butter jar last night though… Which is my guilty pleasure when trying to cut out sugars. That on top of a date or dried fig… so good!
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Kim November 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I totally made the sugar free fudge from Chocolate Covered Katie–primary ingredient, coconut butter! :)

Wow a honey almond milk latte sounds so good right now…staying strong! We can do this! :)


Ashley Pitt @ A Lady Goes West November 11, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Well this is eye-opening and scary. Thanks for sharing! I guess I need to spend more time digging deep into what the labels say.
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Kim November 11, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Yeah, it’s really crazy. One of the great side effects of this no sugar challenge has been all the education!


Katie @ running4cupcakes November 11, 2014 at 11:04 am

Thank you for this post!! I think it is SO easy to get sucked into the “natural” sugar hype and not realize that it is pretty much the same thing as regular sugar and everything in moderation is key.
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Kim November 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Exactly :)


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