Sugar and Refined Sugar

Sugar and Refined Sugar    

Refined Sugar

Refined Sugar

Here we are going to discuss as simply as possible, sugar. (Please note this is just the views and all suggestions and research are fully referenced below)

To begin with, below are the different types of sugar and some basic explanations:

Glucose is a carbohydrate, and is the most important simple sugar in the metabolism of the human body. The reasoning behind why is it called a “simple sugar” or a monosaccharide is that it made up of one sugar unit. Glucose is the body preferred sugar source. This can be found in fruit and vegetables.

Fructose is commonly known as the fruit sugar. It is found in fruits and honey.

Galactose is normally found in nature, and most commonly in Milk. When glucose is added to milk, it is known as Lactose.

Below are some examples of some more complex sugars and where they can be found. Two molecules or units of sugar become a disaccharide

Lactose = Glucose + Galactose can be found in Milk and Dairy products.

Sucrose = Glucose + Fructose. Sucrose can also be found in fruits, plants and vegetables. When broken down in the body to its simplest form, sucrose becomes Fructose and Glucose.

Maltose = Glucose + Glucose Maltose. This is found in Sweet potatoes, cereals and canned fruit. Very few foods are naturally high in maltose. When starchy foods such as cereal grains, corn, potatoes, legumes, nuts and some fruits and vegetables are digested, maltose results. When you cook these foods, the maltose content increases. For example, raw sweet potatoes don’t have any maltose, but cooked sweet potatoes contain approximately 11 grams of maltose per cup.

What are Refined Carbohydrates / Sugar?

Refined carbohydrates are forms of sugars and starches that do not exist in nature. They do come from natural whole foods, but they have been altered in some way by undergoing processing to ‘refine’ them. Refined sugars usually come in the forms of crystals, syrups or powders. They are very addictive, taste sweet and can be highly addictive.

Sucrose can also be considered as a refined sugar. It is made from sugar cane and sugar beet, and is commonly known as table sugar that you add to tea and coffee and use in baking.

A number of health risks have been associated with refined sugars if consumed regularly. These are particularly detrimental to health when consumed in liquid form, as we don’t tend to compensate for the calories that we drink by reducing our calorie consumption elsewhere. The result of this can often be seen in weight gain due to overeating, along with elevated triglycerides (fat), and insulin resistance and other indicators of metabolic syndrome, which will be discussed in article three.

Refined sugars have also been found to reduced immune system efficiency through reducing the body’s capacity to fight viruses, bacteria etc. One of the most eye opening effects of sugar is that it has been found to promote cancer growth by ‘feeding’ the cancer. While it is true that cancer feeds on sugar, it actually feeds on the glucose in your blood; not necessarily the sugar you eat. While those two factors are obviously linked, it’s more important to be aware of your own blood sugar control, so that you don’t consume more sugar (or carbs in general) than you can effectively metabolize. After all, you will always have glucose in your blood as long as you’re alive, so the goal is to avoid having high blood glucose over a prolonged period of time, not to eliminate glucose entirely.

There is plenty of evidence that excess refined sugar can be harmful to health, however there is actually no evidence that small amounts of refined sugar in the context of a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet (and active lifestyle) is harmful. The problem is that limiting yourself to small amounts of sugar in a time full of products containing them, can be a difficult task.


Here is a breakdown of Sugar and its nutritional content: 

Nutrition Facts of Sugar  IS THERE ANY? 
100 GRAMS  
Calories 387  THINK ABOUT THIS? 
% Daily Value*  
Total Fat 0 g 0%  NONE 
Saturated fat 0 g 0%  
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g  
Monounsaturated fat 0 g  
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%  
Sodium 1 mg 0%  
Potassium 2 mg 0%  
Total Carbohydrate 100 g 33%  THINK WHEN YOU ARE EATING
Dietary fiber 0 g 0%  
Sugar 100 g  
Protein 0 g 0%  
Vitamin A 0%  
Calcium 0%  
Vitamin D 0%  
Vitamin B-12 0%  
Vitamin C 0%  
Iron 0%  
Vitamin B-6 0%  
Magnesium 0%
*Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs and daily activities! This also varies for male and females


There are a number of schools of thought in relation to the nutritional value of sugar and its presence in the human diet. William Duffy argues that refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans because it provides only that which nutritionists describe as ‘empty’ or ‘naked’ calories. It lacks the natural minerals, which are present in the healthy natural food.

Alternatively, the BBC Good Food Guide points out that it’s not all bad news. Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in a host of different foods from lactose in milk to the fructose in fruit and honey. In fact, we need some sugar in our diets to supply ready energy to fuel our muscles and keep our brains active. The problem is that many processed foods have added sugar which supplies energy in the form of calories – and very little else. This means our body has to draw on the nutrients from the rest of our diet to process it and this can affect our health, including our immunity – leaving us more prone to bugs and colds. A high intake of sugar causes our blood sugar levels to shoot up, giving us that feel-good ‘high’ followed by a crashing slump which leaves us tired, irritable and craving more sugary foods. It’s a vicious cycle that may be contributing to our weight problems as well as health concerns like diabetes and heart disease.

Hint: If you are going to eat sugars especially refined sugars, experts suggest that the best time to eat them is immediately after a workout. These carbs give your body a quick energy source.


The current guidelines state that ‘The maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are (7): Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons). Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)’ (World Health Organisation). However, many health experts believe this should be decreased significantly further. 

Sugar and Carbohydrates. Which to choose?

Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients. They are the most important source of energy for your body. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar and we will be discussing in further carbohydrates in a later article and blog

Carbohydrates / Foods highs in sugar and refined sugar (This is not an exhaustive list)

  • All desserts except whole fruit
  • Ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, etc
  • Most breads (This is why they take sweet and moreish)
  • Many crackers (100% stone-ground whole grain crackers are less refined)
  • Biscuits and Cookies
  • Burger and Fast food
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Pies
  • Pastries
  • Sweets
  • Chocolate (milk and white especially) It is suggested that some dark chocolates with high cocoa % can have increased health benefits
  • Breaded or battered foods
  • All types of dough (phyllo, pie crust, etc)
  • Most cereals except for unsweetened, 100% whole grain cereals in which you can see the whole grains in their entirety with the naked eye (unsweetened muesli, rolled oats, or unsweetened puffed grain cereals are good examples)
  • Most pastas, noodles and couscous
  • Jams and preserves
  • Bagels
  • Pretzels
  • Pizza (because of the flour in the dough)
  • Puddings and custards
  • Most granola bars, power bars, energy bars, etc (unless labelled sugar-free).
  • Tortillas (unless 100% stone-ground whole grain)
  • Most rice cakes and corn cakes (unless labelled 100% whole grain)
  • Fried vegetable snacks like green beans and carrot chips (usually contain added dextrin, a sweet starch)
  • Ketchup
  • Honey mustard
  • Most barbecue sauces
  • Check labels on salsa, tomato sauces, salad dressings and other jarred/canned sauces for sugar/sweeteners
  • Sweetened yogurts and other sweetened dairy products
  • Honey-roasted nuts
  • Sweetened sodas
  • Chocolate milk (and other sweetened milks)
  • Condensed milk
  • Hot cocoa
  • Most milk substitutes (almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, etc) because they usually have sugar added–read label first
  • Sweet wines and liqueurs


Bad Carbs and Ultimately Sugar when broken down - Refined

Less advisable Carbs and ultimately Sugar (Excess Glucose) when broken down – Refined

Carbohydrates / food low in refined sugars (not an exhaustive list)

  • Fresh/frozen meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Fresh or frozen unsweetened fruits
  • All vegetables
  • Whole grains (whole grain rice, oats, barley, quinoa, corn, etc)
  • Nuts and seeds of all types
  • Unsweetened nut butters
  • Unsweetened coconut
  • Popcorn
  • 100% wholegrain rice cakes
  • Whole legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
  • Guacamole
  • Unsweetened salsa
  • Vegetable tapenades
  • Olives
  • Unsweetened pickles
  • Soy products (like tofu and unsweetened or sugar-free soy milk)
  • Unsweetened, all-natural dairy products (milk, plain yogurt, cheeses, butter, cream, half-and-half, sour cream)
  • 100% stone-ground wholegrain breads or crackers without sugar added
  • Unsweetened coffee, tea, sparkling water (either plain or with natural flavours or essences added), water
  • Herbs and spices
  • Oils
Less Refined Sugar with more nutritional values

Less Refined Sugar with more nutritional values

Written by Paul Smith of UK Outdoor Fitness Limited  & UK Health and Well Being Limited 2016



  • Personal Training Level 3 Active IQ
  • The metabolism Advantage – John Berardi, PHD, CSCS
  • In Defence of food (Book)
  • Handbook of Nutrition (Book)

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