If I asked you to pick either natural orange juice or an orange soft drink, which one would you choose based on how healthy the sugar was inside it? The orange juice seems like the obvious choice, since the sugar in it is natural right? Well you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong that drinking a glass or orange juice is healthier for you than a glass of soft drink, but the reason is not because the natural sugar in it is healthier for you.
While we may tend to see the orange juice as healthier than the soft drink, it’s still not as healthy as eating the fruit itself. Why? The amount of sugar you consume in one glass of orange juice will be a lot more than in one fruit. In addition, eating an orange means consuming fibre that will keep you full for longer, and juice does not have that advantage.
Does this mean you should shun both orange juice and orange soda? Not at all, but we should be aware that drinking juice isn’t automatically healthier and drinking soda doesn’t mean that we’re indulging in sugar that’s bad for us. In fact, sugar is sugar.
Sure, there are different types of sugar; sucrose, fructose, glucose etc. Sucrose is also called table sugar, and it’s the sugar we immediately think of when someone brings up something sweet. There is sucrose in fruits too, which is good to remember. However, all the different kinds of sucrose (white sugar, brown sugar etc) contain 4 calories per gram, no matter where they come from. Sugar is sugar!
Processed sugar has got a bad rap because it tends to be added to foods that are unhealthy in other ways, but if we added a natural sugar in copious amounts to these foods we’d be up in arms about that sugar too!
So does this mean we should throw our hands in the air and eat whatever we want? Well, not exactly. But knowing that all sugar is more or less broken down in the same way in our body and no sugar is ‘healthier’ than any other sugar can help us feel less guilty when we indulge in something sweeter than usual, and it can help us realise that what we’re eating isn’t quite as healthy as we think it is either. We can approach the way we eat with a more balanced view.