No doubt sugar has the worst reputation in the wellness and nutrition space, maybe after GMOs. The US Office of Disease Prevention and the World Health Organization say you should get no more than 10% of your daily calories from added sugar each day -- and even better is limiting added sugar to 25 grams (or six teaspoons) in total. But, is it really fair to label all sugar as the same? And what counts as added sugar?
Some people will tell you sugar is sugar no matter what -- while others argue some forms of sugar are better, and dare I say, healthier than others. But when you look at the research, there is no evidence to clearly state that diets including naturally occurring sugar are harmful for your health.
Below, Jayne Williams, a certified nutritional consultant and clinical nutrition graduate student weighs in to shed some light on the different types of sugar and how they affect your health.
The different types of sugars, explained
Added sugar is any type of sugar that you (or a manufacturer) adds to food -- whether that is coconut sugar, cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. But this is when the real grey area of the sugar debate appears, because each of these sugars are different in terms of how they're made or found.
When it comes to sugar in food there are a few important factors to consider: If there is added sugar and the sugar comes from a natural source, or is found in a whole food. For example, fruit is a whole, natural food and contains sugar in its natural form. It also contains a variety of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
The World Health Organization notes in their guidelines that when they refer to sugar intake suggestions, the 10% limit doesn't refer to sugar that's found naturally in food like fruit or milk. So the first thing to distinguish is added sugar versus the naturally occurring type.
"I like to categorize sugar in three categories: Natural, modified natural sugar and fake sugar. Then we can start to differentiate between what can have added benefits and what can just downright cause issues in our body," Williams says.