Different Types of Sugar and Which One Is Healthier Explained

Heather Campbell
 min read

If you take a moment to look at all the foods in your kitchen cabinets, you will see that almost all contain additives. and different types of sugar.

Different Types Of Sugar And Which One Is Healthier ExplainedFor example, you will find sugar in most products and aromas, colors, and flavors. Not to mention the pesticides used to get our fruits and vegetables into the supermarket as nicely as possible.

Read on for an overview of the different types of sugar, their effect on our bodies, and which are healthiest.

The different types of sugar explained: Introduction

Many studies show how dangerous sugar is to our bodies. Yet it is still widely used in our diet.

By now, we are so used to sugar’s sweet taste that we cannot do without sugar for a long time.

Sugar and flavor enhancers reduce the function of our taste buds. Our sense of taste generally decreases because of the strong taste sensations they cause.

As a result, we often no longer like pure, unprocessed foods and eat them less and less.

But do not despair: When you start eating pure and unprocessed foods again, you will be amazed at how delicious they taste (especially if you eat them slower and regularly).

Sugars and sweeteners are everywhere

Sugar is a very cheap raw material and is often used in products as filler, to make them last longer, or to decorate them.

These days, sugar really is in everything. In fact, you can’t think of anything that doesn’t have sugar added to it.

Consider meats, sauces, ready meals, fruit teas, cat food, etc.

The moment you really start reading the labels in the supermarket (but also on the products in your kitchen cupboard), you will be amazed at what you find!

Three different types of sugar

Sugar comes in many different shapes and sizes.

Roughly speaking, we can classify sugar based on the following categories:

  1. Natural sugars
  2. Refined sugar
  3. Artificial sugar substitutes and sweeteners

Natural sugars (fructose)

Fructose is another name for sugar that is naturally found in fruit.

However, most of the fructose incorporated into foods or in the form of fruit sugar is made from corn and potato starch through chemical processes.

This chemically produced fructose is also known as glucose-fructose syrup.

Chemical and hazardous fructose

This dangerous and chemical “fructose” variety (found in soft drinks, cookies, and processed meats, among others) is best avoided because your liver immediately stores this sugar as fat.

Many people think this sugar is healthier because it is the sugar that occurs naturally in nature. But in terms of fructose, this is only partially true.

This is true of the fructose you get directly from fruit (by eating fruit) but not the processed (chemical) varieties.

Fruit, if not too much (a maximum of three pieces/portions per day), is fine to eat.

Always eat the whole fruit so that you also get the fiber that causes the sugars to be absorbed more slowly and allows your gut to be healthier and more balanced.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is a risk

Because fructose is digested differently in the body (it enters the bloodstream through the liver), it causes a less rapid rise in blood sugar.

This is a great advantage because it avoids severe blood sugar fluctuations.

But beware because the fructose from corn and starch in particular (the chemically extracted fructose) can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver when consumed in large quantities.

A fatty liver causes increased production of substances that contribute to cardiovascular disease, among other things.

In addition, fatty liver can cause inflammation in the liver that can cause irreversible damage in the form of liver cirrhosis (where part of the liver dies) and/or liver tumors.

It is estimated that between 20 and 40% of adults in Western countries suffer from fatty liver.

The good news is that fatty liver is reversible in most cases, including through losing weight and eating less sugar!

Forms of natural sugars

When it comes to natural sugars, there are lots of varieties available.

Just remember that natural sugars also remain just sugars that affect your blood sugar and tax your system and body.

So while natural sugars may not be refined, they still disrupt your energy balance.

Overview of different natural sugars

Examples of natural sugars often found in organic products are the following:

  • Raw cane sugar (more info below)
  • Date syrup
  • Honey (more info below)
  • Maple syrup (more info below)
  • Spelt syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Corn (malt) syrup
  • Wheat syrup
  • Brown sugar
Cane sugar (raw)

Cane sugar is produced the same way as refined white sugar (see later in this article). However, several parts are skipped in the raw cane sugar production process.

Cane sugar can be just as bleached in origin as ordinary white sugar.

Then, some molasses is added to give it a brown color and its own flavor. With raw cane sugar, however, this does not happen.

In raw cane sugar, most of the natural nutrients are still present.

Sidenote: Raw cane sugar also causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Honey as a maverick

Honey is enjoyed by young and old (as well as bears like the famous Winnie-the-Pooh).

Honey is a separate story in terms of natural sugars.

Certainly, organic honey has many medicinal properties. It has antibacterial activity and supports the immune system as a natural antiviral agent.

Moreover, honey contains acetylcholine and choline hormones that ensure that honey (unlike other fructose varieties) does not cause fatty liver.

Still, even with honey, you must be careful because it impacts your blood sugar levels.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup comes from the maple tree.

This syrup was originally discovered by Native Americans, who used it as food and medicine.

Especially with us in the US, maple syrup is still very popular.

But beware, maple syrup is high in fructose, which can contribute to fatty liver and also causes quite a fluctuation in blood sugar levels.

Refined sugar

When we discuss facts about sugar, most of the time, we mean refined sugar.

Refined sugar is sugar that is stripped, so to speak, of all the nutrients it contains.

The sugar is then bleached through a chemical process to give it a nice white color, extend its shelf life, and neutralize its taste.

But unfortunately, refining causes the removal of the very substances the body needs to properly digest sugar…

The production of refined sugar

Producing refined sugar is quite a job.

First, the sugar beets are washed, cut, ground, and rolled. Then the residue is filtered, centrifuged, and clarified.

Carbonation (in which lime water and carbon dioxide are added to the liquid) removes the solids that make the sugar liquid cloudy. At the same time, some of the color is also removed.

The sugar syrup is thickened by evaporation (boiling), and the molasses is further decolorized using charred cow bones.

After this, it is again centrifuged and dried. The end result is our well-known white table sugar.

Refined sugar depletes us

All the substances the body needs to properly digest sugar (fiber, minerals, enzymes, and vitamins) are skillfully removed through the manufacturing process.

As a result, the body must draw on its own reserves (mainly the mineral supply) to digest sugars.

Sugar is tremendously acidifying to the body…

And since the human body continually strives to maintain proper acidity, it will use minerals and other substances to neutralize the acidification that sugar causes in the body.

For your information, sugar causes even more problems in our bodies, given the relationship between sugar and various types of disease.

Consequently, anything used to neutralize sugar can no longer be used to support your immune system.

As a result, all kinds of other processes in the body (such as hormonal balance) will also be confused.

The many names of (refined) sugar

Sugar is commonly listed on labels under the following names:

  • Vanilla sugar
  • Crystal sugar
  • Malt
  • Candy sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Jelly sugar
  • Cassonade
  • Glucose syrup
  • Fructose syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Glucose-fructose syrup
  • Demerara
  • Grape Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Caramel
  • Sucrose
  • Molasses (syrup)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Cane sugar

Artificial sugar substitutes and sweeteners

Artificial (chemical) sugar substitutes and sweeteners are used by many who are mindful of their calorie intake…

They are also still recommended by many dieticians and weight consultants. You find them in ample amounts in so-called “light” products but also in medications and dietary supplements.

Many people don’t realize that these artificial sweeteners can also mess up the body quite a bit…

They are unrecognizable to the body (since they are chemical). Often they also signal to the body that sugar is coming, causing the body to start producing insulin in advance.

But then when no sugar arrives, a feeling of hunger arises because of the excessive amount of insulin in the blood, which causes you to eat after all (with the risk of becoming overweight or obese).

Fact: That extra amount of insulin in the blood also causes increased fat storage.

Artificial sweeteners can make you sick

Although many studies show that artificial sugar substitutes and sweeteners are not harmful to health, we should be careful.

Artificial sweeteners are made through a factory chemical process, so how healthy can they be?

The funny thing with these studies is that they are often directly or indirectly funded by the manufacturers of the same sweeteners.

So, how reliable are the results of such sponsored studies? Hence, it would not be unwise to use as few artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes as possible.

There is increasing evidence that aspartame, for example, has toxic side effects that can significantly damage our nervous system.

These include memory loss, brain tumors, and more common complaints such as headaches and tinnitus.

In addition, sweeteners act carcinogenically, meaning they promote the development and growth of cancer by altering the cell genome.

Commonly used artificial sweeteners in foods

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame-k
  • Cyclamates
  • Sucralose
  • Splenda
  • Sorbitol
  • Sukrin
  • Tagatose
  • Xylitol

Less harmful alternatives to sugar

Even though it may not directly affect your blood sugar, eating different types of sugar often creates even more cravings for sweets…

This may trigger you to eat more anyway. Therefore, using no sweeteners or at least as few as possible is a good idea.

If you really can’t do without a sweetener, preferably choose one of the following alternatives:

Palm sugar

Palm sugar is made from the sap of certain palm tree species.

This juice is extracted by cutting a disc off the flower stem and letting it drip out.

Palm sugar is natural, relatively unrefined, and widely used in Thai and Javanese cuisine.


Stevia is a natural sugar substitute derived from a plant that grows mainly in South America. In this continent, stevia has been used as a sweetener for centuries.

The plant grows naturally in Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in China, Israel, and many other countries.

The leaves of the stevia plant contain the sweetener we know as consumers. You can use these leaves fresh and dried. In addition, there is a stevia extract available that has a bitter taste.

Of course, there is also refined stevia (stevia powder) on the market under the name stevioside.

Much sweeter than conventional sugar

Somewhat depending on the form in which you use it, stevia is thirty to three hundred times sweeter than sugar. It contains no calories and does not affect your blood sugar levels.

There are now also foods on the market sweetened with stevia. Be careful with this!

Often these products are sweetened with the refined form of stevia, and the question is whether this is really that healthy.

Also, beware of stevioside products because this is a refined stevia concentrate that is two hundred to three hundred times sweeter than sugar.

You can eat it, but it no longer contains any nutrients.

Tip: Always opt for pure stevia to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with. This pure stevia contains at least 95 percent steviol glycosides.

Mesquite powder

Mesquite powder is made from the legumes of the mesquite tree. This tree grows mainly in South America, Mexico, and the southern United States.

This natural sweetener has high nutritional value and helps the body balance blood sugar levels.

In addition, many medicinal properties are attributed to mesquite powder.

Mesquite powder tastes syrupy and can be incorporated into cold and hot dishes.

Coconut blossom sugar

Coconut blossom sugar is also extracted from a palm tree: the coconut palm. It is made from the nectar of the coconut blossom.

Coconut blossom sugar is a very sustainable sugar because the sugar yields from coconut blossoms are many times higher than those from sugar beets, for example.


Lucuma is an exotic Peruvian fruit nicknamed “Inca gold.” Lucuma trees can live up to five hundred years.

The fruit tastes like vanilla caramel, and the yellow lucuma powder has a low glycemic index making it a good sugar substitute.

Lucuma naturally contains many vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.

Yakon syrup

The yakon is a plant found in Peru in the Andes Mountains. This plant is grown mainly for its sweet roots.

The taste of yakon could be described as a mix of apple and watermelon.

Hence also the nickname “apple root” for yakon.

Yakon is an excellent source of iron, helps remove toxins from the body, improves digestive functions, and is also a good source of potassium.

Without added sugars

Manufacturers do almost everything they can to fool us as consumers. For example, they frequently use the statement “without added sugars.”

Of course, this was well thought out, and this claim is technically valid because there is no white sugar in the food product.

Beware of disguised sugar syrups

But beware, sugar syrup is often used instead, which can cause blood sugar to rise rapidly.

The most common sugar syrups are the following:

Rice syrup

Rice syrup is often seen as a sweetener for cookies, and most rice syrups cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

An exception is brown rice syrup, but it is much less sweet, making it more likely you’ll use more of it.

Thus, products sweetened with rice syrup are not recommended because they are most likely to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.

Date syrup

Date syrup is made from dates and is a highly concentrated juice from which your blood sugar skyrockets.


Maltodextrin consists of maltose and dextrose.

It is used as a sweetener in the food industry, fat substitute, filler (reducing costs for the producer), or texture enhancer.

Maltose (malt syrup)

Maltose or malt syrup contains more nutrients than white sugar but still causes a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Examples of malt syrups are wheat syrup and corn syrup.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More