Ice tea, school biscuits, breakfast cereal, yoghurt drinks, sweets. A lot of products that your kids like have quite a lot of sugar in them. This is a much-discussed topic. Because even when you think you're doing the right thing by choosing alternatives to these products, it can be really hard to find something that's actually better option.
Five years ago, we started our fight against refined sugars, artificial additives and products with 'empty calories' that have no nutritional value. To help you along, we've answered 7 of your most burning questions about sugar.
Do you have a different question? Keep asking us questions! We'll always respond to you.
1. What is the effect of sugar on a child's body?
Table sugar is made up of fructose and glucose. Both of these are absorbed through the small intestines and end up in your blood. Excess fructose is turned into fat. Glucose is required for energy, but too much of it will result in high blood sugar levels. Your child will have too much energy and can become over-active.
To make up for the excess, your body creates insulin. This reduces the spike in blood sugar levels, but they become lower than they were before your child ate the sugar. So your child becomes tired and irritated. Their body wants new energy, so it craves more sugar. It becomes a vicious cycle.
2. Which kind of sugar is best for you, and why?
The closer to nature, the healthier. Refined sugars have been 'cleaned' in factories, making them white, extending their shelf life and neutralising their flavour. But that means their natural minerals and fibres are also removed. Minerals and fibres are important to help the body better absorb sugar into our blood.
Unrefined sugars are also processed, but are kept closer to their original state. This means they are darker in colour, and still contain important vitamins and minerals. The best thing to do is to vary your unrefined sugar intake, and to look out for other ingredients, such as wholemeal flours.
3. Can you give us an example of unrefined sugars?
Examples of unrefined sugars are:
- coconut blossom sugar
- apple juice concentrate
- rice syrup
- date syrup
- agave syrup
4. How can you recognise (refined) sugars on packaging? (what are the names of hidden sugars)
Examples of names of refined sugars are: sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, cane sugar, fructose, fructose syrup, glucose syrup, dextrose, beet sugar, brown (cane) sugar, grape sugar, invert sugar, molasses, vanilla sugar.
If you're unsure about a name, let us know and we can tell you if it's a refined sugar.
5. You use apple juice, apple puree concentrate and apple juice concentrate in your products, what is the difference?
These sugars all come from the same source: apples. The closer to we keep products to their natural state and the fewer steps there are in the production process, the better. All three contain the same sugars, but in concentrated juice, the water content has been (largely) reduced.
Fresh apple juice contains the most vitamins and minerals. But the apples' fibres are no longer present. These fibres remain in apple puree concentrate.
We use all three forms because they each have their benefits. We also have to consider which form is most applicable. It's impossible to sweeten a biscuit with apple juice that isn't concentrated. You'd need a litre of apple juice to sweeten one biscuit and it would never get crunchy!
6. What is better: regular sugar, or sugar free but full of sweeteners?
Sugar plays several roles in our food: it gives it volume, adds crunch, sweetens the flavour and adds colour. When you remove sugar from a product, you have to find something to replace those qualities with something else.
Sweeteners often only do a few of these things, which means more (chemical) additives are required to meet all those qualities that sugar has. So fillers, flavours and colouring might be added.
Sweeteners are often used because they are low in calories. The body cannot process them, so our intestines work hard to turn them into something we can absorb. This can lead to bowel irritation or diarrhoea.
So we advise you to always chose products that stay close to nature, and keep paying attention to how much you give your child.
7. Isn't all sugar just sugar?
Our bodies can process unrefined sugars much better because they still contain the vitamins and minerals that were in the original product (like in apple, for example).
All forms of sugar, refined or unrefined, is mostly made up of sucrose. This is added to products to sweeten it. Both can lead to peak in blood sugar levels. So the other ingredients in a product are very important. When there are wholegrain flours in a biscuit, sugar is absorbed at a much slower rate and the peak in our blood sugar level will not be as high.
Nature itself manages this very well. For example, when you eat an apple, you will consume its sugars together with its fibres. Your body has to work hard to break down those fibres, and the sugar enters your blood stream at a much slower rate, so your blood sugar levels don't peak as high.
We could tell you a million other things about sugar. If you'd like to learn more, please let us know.
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