Although the harmful health effects of sugar are now indisputable, we are still eating an incredible amount of it. In fact, the average American consumes three pounds of the sweet white poison per week! And it's easy to understand why. As we've written about before, sugar is addictive, with some brain scans suggesting that it's just as addictive as drugs like cocaine.
In light of this knowledge, many people are attempting to choose a "healthier" sugar, opting for the more natural sugar options at the grocery stores. You've probably seen many of these yourself. So what are these natural options—and are they any better for you than refined white sugar?
Here's what you need to know:
Refined white sugar: You probably know this already, but it's worth repeating. Refined white sugar is completely stripped of all nutritional value, and provides only empty calories. Furthermore, more than 65 percent of the white sugar available commercially is made from GMO sugar beets. Avoid it at all costs!
Brown sugar: Commercial brown sugar is nothing more than refined white sugar with some molasses added back in for color and flavor. Don't be fooled by the color or claims. It's just as bad.
Evaporated cane juice: Made from sugar cane (as opposed to sugar beets), evaporated cane juice is slightly less refined than white sugar, and therefore retains more color, flavor, and nutrients from the sugar cane. But really the only difference between commercial evaporated cane juice and white sugar is that the former goes through one less step of refinement.
Raw organic cane sugar: This type of sugar is less processed than refined white sugar, and still contains some of the original nutrients present in cane juice. These include amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and even some antioxidants. Because it's organic, you also won't be exposed to the pesticides present in commercially grown sugar. So, while obviously a better choice than refined white sugar, remember that it's still SUGAR and should be consumed in minimal amounts.
Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is harvested from the sap of the coconut plant through a very natural process of extracting the juice, and then allowing the water to evaporate. Process-wise, it is one of the most sustainable methods of sugar production, and the product also contains a small amount of fiber and other nutrients. Coconut also contains a lower percentage of fructose than the other sugars listed, which perhaps makes it slightly healthier than the other options.
Remember, no matter what sugar you choose, quantity is just as, if not more, important than quality. Consuming a few teaspoons of refined white sugar is almost definitely still healthier than eating a lot more of the natural varieties. So whatever type of natural sugar you choose, make sure you limit your intake in the same way you would with refined sugar!