Sugar is a pretty hot topic in the news. We’re constantly exposed to articles and research, used to fuel an increasing number of nationwide campaigns against high sugar consumption.
Refined sugar receives the greatest criticism due to its links with obesity, diabetes and increased dental cavities.
We’re all partial to a sweet treat or two, but do we know the effects our food choices are having on our bodies?

Unrefined vs. Refined sugar

Refined sugar comes from sugar canes or beet which are processed to extract sugar. Chemical processes are used to remove impurities and coloured compounds. It is typically found as sucrose.

During the refinement process, sugar is stripped of its nutritional components. Therefore, refined sugar is essentially ‘empty’ calories as it provides no nutritional benefits.

Unrefined sugars are those such as honey, agave nectar and maple syrup and those found naturally in fruit and even dairy. On occasion, they are subjected to slight heating, but this heat processing is nowhere near as extensive as with refined sugars. Unlike refined sugars, sources of unrefined sugar can contain an array of vitamins and minerals, all of which have beneficial effects on the body.

What is the body’s response to your choice of sugar?

Whether you consume white sugar in your coffee or drizzle your yoghurt with runny honey, your body processes the sugars in the same way.

However, refined sugars are broken down by the body at a far quicker rate compared to unrefined sugars. As a result, refined sugars cause insulin and blood sugars levels to skyrocket! Prolonged consumption can cause the pancreas to overproduce insulin, in turn leading to too much sugar being removed from the blood – hypoglycaemia. In the long run, this will negatively impact on the function of the liver, pancreas and adrenal glands.

Your brain will also react to the sudden influx of sugar by producing serotonin, which acts as a sleep- regulating hormone. An afternoon slump is far from ideal when you’re in the middle of a working day.

In addition, insulin impacts leptin production (hunger hormone). Therefore, the higher your insulin levels go, the hungrier you’ll feel (regardless of whether you’ve just eaten a large meal). Your body will be forced into a state of simulated starvation mode and begins to start storing glucose as fat. This leads to weight gain in the long run.

On the flip side, unrefined or natural sugars are usually accompanied by fibre or other nutrients which slow down metabolism and therefore do not produce the same spikes and crashes in insulin and blood sugar levels. Fruit, for example, raspberries and apples are rich in sugar, but due to their high fibre content, the sugar is metabolised at a slower rate. In addition, they’re both packed with health-boosting vitamins and minerals, meaning they’re not only delicious, but also nutritious!

Should you make the swap?

Opting for unrefined sugars is a no-brainer!

At FFF, our menu is free from refined sugar. To add sweetness to our meals we use honey, maple syrup, dates and cocoa powder. As a self-confessed chocoholic, I was originally sceptical as to whether FFF’s sweet treats would hit the spot the same way chocolate does. Let me tell you, they do! They range from protein Oreos to tiramisu pots, all of which are equally as delicious.

Tasty treats do not have to be processed and packed with refined sugar to tickle your taste buds.
Refined sugar’s bad reputation is supported by a growing body of evidence. We can also see the impacts first-hand, namely on our mood and energy levels. Whether you take steps to reduce your consumption of refined sugar or cut it out completely, your body will undoubtedly thank you in the long run.

Although the thought of eliminating refined sugar from our diets completely may seem daunting, we’ve provided you with some fun alternatives below to kick-start your reduced refined sugar journey!

Our smart swaps

  • Ice-cream : chop up two bananas, pop them in the freezer for 3-4 hours. Once frozen blitz in the blender, along with peanut butter until smooth. Voila, homemade ice-cream.
  • Ketchup / BBQ sauce : make your own sauces / dressings using honey, lemon and herbs. Could also be used to glaze meat for summer BBQs.
  • Flapjacks: instead of reaching for readymade flapjacks, make your own with dried fruit (raisins, sultanas or cranberries), oats and honey.

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