Good Sugar vs. Bad Sugar: How to tell the Difference

Many people get violently upset when I suggest quitting sugar, saying “Rubbish, we need sugar to live!” Others take a know-it-all attitude and say “Well, you know that eating bread is no better, since carbohydrates and sugar are the same thing.” But they are mistaken. The type of sugar they are actually referring to is GLUCOSE. And as we learn on this website, the only type of sugar that is bad for the human body is FRUCTOSE.

Fructose is the sweet-tasting substance which is the main ingredient in table sugar (sucrose)/cane sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Agave, and nearly all other sweeteners found in food nowadays.

In its most familiar form, it’s that grainy white stuff which we commonly call “table sugar”, or sucrose. It is made from a type of sweet grass called sugarcane and is exactly 50% fructose. The other half is glucose, which is harmless. But it’s the high concentration of fructose that is of most concern.

As you will soon learn on this website, it is slowly poisoning our society to death.

But first, let’s look at some “sugars” which are relatively harmless to the human body so you can make sure you are not accidentally confusing them for bad sugars and cutting harmless, beneficial substances out of your diet for no reason.

Glucose: Good Sugar

Our body’s fuel, what it runs on, is a type of “sugar” called glucose. Essentially EVERYTHING we eat is converted mostly to glucose, so if we were to try and “quit” it, we would starve to death. ALL food including grains, vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, and milk gets converted into glucose once it’s inside our body. There are a few extra bits, like fibre from the plant products, and amino acids (aka protein) and fatty acids from the meat – but basically our body turns everything else into glucose, which our body needs for its fuel. In a healthy body, a hormone called insulin helps our body absorb glucose from the bloodstream into cells where it is needed for growth and repair.

When a person becomes insulin resistant (as in Type II Diabetes), insulin no longer helps our cells absorb glucose: so the cells can’t get energy, and start to starve; and the glucose just keeps circulating in our blood, which is why diabetic blood glucose levels are so high. It’s not because we eat too much glucose or because glucose is bad, it’s just because we’ve lost the ability to absorb it. Insulin resistance is caused by a diet high in FRUCTOSE. For more information on how fructose causes Type II Diabetes, click the article below:

Sweet Poison: Why Quit Sugar?

Carbohydrates: Mainly Glucose

breads and grains
It’s all glucose: Brown bread may be healthier than white bread, and brown rice may be healthier than white rice, but none of it contains fructose (unless it’s added for flavour, as in raisin bread).

Carbohydrates like oats, grains and potatoes can be part of a healthy and nutritious diet, especially if eaten in their most natural form with minimal refining and processing. As well as yielding fibre, most carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which, as discussed above, is the main fuel for the healthy functioning of the human body.

Confusingly, carbohydrates (mainly harmless glucose) and sugar (deadly high-fructose sucrose) are often listed together on product ingredients labels. This is probably one of the reasons that many people believe sugar and carbs are one and the same thing. They are not.

Take for example the label below from a bakery product. It contains 33g of total carbohydrate, but only 2g of those carbs are actual sugar (sucrose). Five grams of the carbs are in the form of fibre, which means the remaining 27% is converted by our body to glucose, which is harmless and essential for our body.

carbs label

Some types of food are converted to glucose very quickly (referred to as High-Glycemic Index or High-GI Foods). Carbohydrates are often high-GI. In a healthy person, high-GI foods are not a problem because they help us get a quick burst of energy for cellular activity. Insulin vacuums up all that glucose in no time and feeds it to cells that need it. People with normal insulin levels do NOT need to eat low-GI or low-carb diets.

A low-carb diet is extremely difficult to maintain. One of the main reasons some people manage to lose weight using it, is because it is so restrictive that it simply results in a form of mild starvation. But the level of suffering involved means that very few people succeed on it for very long and many dieticians believe that low-carb diets are actually bad for your health.

If you want to do a low-carb diet that’s fine, but you won’t find any support for it on this website!

Alcohol: No Fructose Here

sugar alcohol

Alcohol may have many negative health effects, but containing sucrose or fructose is not one of them. So relax, if you wish, you can drink alcohol in moderation when quitting sugar. The sugar used to make alcohol goes through a chemical process during fermentation, which converts it to fructose-free maltose (in beer) and ethanol (in liquor). So, if you have your gin with soda water instead of tonic (tonic is high in sugar), and your rum with Diet Coke instead of Coke, then you can drink alcohol when quitting sugar! Be warned however that sweet-tasting dessert wines and cider still have fructose in them – so avoid those sweet-tasting alcohols.

Lactose / Galactose: Harmless unless you’re intolerant

milk

Lactose and galactose are converted to glucose by our body and therefore, have none of the ill side effects of fructose.

Sure, 70% of the world’s population may be lactose intolerant, but if you’re not, then feel free to keep consuming milk and milk products, as long as they are not flavoured with fructose.

Fructose: The real killer

As I have mentioned before, fructose is the sweet-tasting substance which is the main ingredient in table sugar (sucrose)/cane sugar, maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Agave, and nearly all other sweeteners found in food nowadays.

In its most familiar form, it’s that grainy white stuff which we commonly call “table sugar”, or sucrose. It is made from a type of sweet grass called sugarcane and is exactly 50% fructose. The other half is glucose, which is harmless. But it’s the high concentration of fructose that is of most concern.

sugar teaspoon
Sucrose: the form of sugar we are most familiar with. it is 50% fructose.

How much is too much fructose?

Yes, fructose in small amounts is fine. About 3 to 5 teaspoons a day is the current maximum recommended intake. That’s the amount you can get from the two pieces of fruit a day, as recommended in the “Two Fruit and Five Veg a Day” campaign. I am not advocating that you stop eating those. However, above and beyond those two pieces of fruit, you absolutely cannot afford to eat any extra fructose added to your food.

sugar consumption graph

Up until the 20th century the average person ate less than 1 teaspoon of sugar per day. In fact, many cultures had less than a teaspoon of sugar each YEAR. Now, the average Australian is eating 40 teaspoons of sugar (sucrose) a day, for a total of about 1 kilogram each week. Half of that sugar is pure fructose, and most of it is hidden from view so we don’t even realise we’re eating it. Even people who believe they have a very healthy diet, and eat confectionery and soft drinks “very occasionally” or hardly at all, are often surprised to learn how much hidden sugar is actually still in their diet!

Many foods we have been led to believe to be “healthy” (by clever food advertising), are actually packed full of sugar, including including juices, flavoured milk, Milo, Sustagen, iced tea, sports drinks, dried fruit, breakfast cereals, peanut butter, baked beans, muesli, muesli bars, raisin toast, tomato ketchup, reduced fat mayonnaise, yoghurt, ANYTHING which says “reduced fat” or “lite”, soy milk, baby food, baby formula, and more.

Click below to read more about how bad fructose is for our body:

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Wait, fructose comes from fruit – how can it be bad?

Yes, fructose is a natural substance found in fruit. But before we invented modern processing techniques, fructose was very rare in our diets. Prior to the 20th century, most people had less than a teaspoon of fructose a week in their diet. Plenty of societies lived in places where little or no fruit grew, and had pretty much zero fructose in their diets – including Australian Aboriginals, the Inuit (“eskimos”) of Canada and Greenland, and certain African desert tribes. They gained all the vitamins and nutrients they needed from meat, leafy vegetables, roots, and grains.

In those days, the only way most people could get fructose was if they found a beehive and fought some angry bees for a small helping of honey, or found/planted a fruit tree and waited all year for it to come into fruit, that is, supposing they lived in a climate where fruit grows readily (which pretty much removes Australia from the equation).

nature's candy
Nature’s Candy: Fruit was once a seasonal rarity, but is now available in huge amounts all year round, and is also refined into highly concentrated substances.

Before the invention of agriculture, genetic modification, refrigeration, and modern transport, most people went all year without any fruit at all. For example, in Europe, all the fruit trees came into fruit within a few short weeks in late spring to summer. Then, for a short period, everyone celebrated and gorged themselves on fruit as much as they could for a week or so, before the birds, insects, fruit flies, fungus, rodents, and whatever other wildlife existed in the region gobbled it all up.

For most of human history we had no refrigerators, pesticides, or techniques for making jams and jellies so the highly competitive “fruit binge” would be over within literally a couple of weeks and everyone would have to wait a year for the next one.

So why did humans evolve such a craving for sweet things, if they aren’t good for us? Well, in ancient times, when fruits were in short supply and therefore precious, our obsession with sweet things may have given us an evolutionary advantage. It would have helped motivate us to fight off other animals to obtain as much fruit as possible in the short time it was available, to gain a quick package of energy and build up a store of fat for the coming winter or dry season. Sugar raises cortisol (stress) levels in our body, somewhat like a stimulant drug, and a short burst of energy from sugar might have helped make us hyper-productive. But it would have been impossible to have “too much” with the limited supply available. So our body never developed a natural way to handle large and constant amounts of fructose, or a natural ability to know when enough is enough.

fruit fructose content

Fast-forward to the 20th and 21st centuries and our fructose obsession is unchecked and out of control. Nowadays, because of agriculture, genetic modification, refrigeration and transport improvements, preservatives and preservation technology, and bee farms with hundreds of hives, we can get honey, syrup, fruit and fruit products all year round and we are eating the equivalent of up to 20 serves of fruit a day instead of the recommended two – but instead of eating actual whole fruits (which are high in healthful substances like fibre and vitamin C), we have found a faster way to get a direct hit of sugar directly to the blood stream: concentrated, refined forms of fructose.

Sugar, syrup, honey and other concentrated forms of fructose

Since the beginning of the 20th century we have developed many processing techniques which have allowed us to extract the pure fructose from its natural, fibre-rich plant source and distill it into much more highly concentrated forms. This allows us to throw away the healthful, fibre-packed fruit and consume ridiculously large amounts of pure, worthless, fructose.

honey

Bees were the first ones to do it. Honey is made from flower nectar and is usually more than 80% fructose.Yes, honey is natural and does contain many healthy properties. But unless you’re ill and need it for medicinal reasons, you don’t NEED it. Remember, your maximum recommended daily intake of sugar is 3-5 teaspoons so if you want a little honey in your tea and on your morning porridge, then your daily intake has been consumed before the day even begins, and you haven’t even eaten any fruit yet! Once you finish the process of quitting fructose and overcome the addiction, you will no longer crave sweetness anyway and will be able to enjoy the natural flavour of tea and oats without added fructose (whether it’s from honey or sucrose or any other source).

Anyway, until we discovered how to domesticate bees, they weren’t too fond of sharing their food with us. So, in the 19th century, humans started finding their own ways to concentrate fructose from things like grass (the cane sugar plant – source of most Australian sugar), beets (the source of most European sugar) and corn (High Fructose Corn Syrup is the source of most American sugar).

If you were to munch on a bunch of cane sugar stalks, or beets, you would probably feel full pretty quickly due to all the fibre contained in the plant, and would stop eating. That would bestow on you the equivalent of perhaps one or two teaspoons of sugar, but the fibre in the plant would help our body counteract the effects of the sugar, and also make you feel full, so you wouldn’t eat anything else for a while afterward, which would reduce your calorie intake.

sugar cane stalks
Raw sugar cane stalks.

However, if you squeeze the juice out of the cane or sugar beet and crystallise it, you can eat 20 teaspoons of it in one sitting. Does it sound disgusting to sit and eat 20 teaspoons of sugar? Well that’s essentially what you’re doing if you eat a big bowl of Kellogg’s Just Right cereal and drink a glass of apple juice. But as soon as we finish that bowl, we still feel hungry afterwards, because the low fibre content doesn’t fill you up. Then you might fill the gap with an “Up and Go” breakfast drink (more than 6 teaspoons of sugar) or a piece of toast with jam or honey (another 4 teaspoons).

Fancy names for high-fructose substances

As you can probably gather, it’s possible to take any relatively benign plant that has a little fructose in it, and refine it to the point where you have a substance that is nearly pure fructose. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether your sugar is made from agave, grass, beets, corn, dates, sorghum, panocha, coconuts, or organic goji berries hand-picked from the slopes of the Tibetan mountains. If the resulting substance contains high concentrations of fructose, it is not worth consuming (and the vitamins you seek can be obtained in vegetables and other sources).

When it comes to table sugar, it doesn’t matter whether it’s white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, castor sugar, icing sugar, or organic sugar: it all contains high concentrations of fructose.

Food manufacturers like to capitalise on the fact that sugar comes from “natural” sources like fruit, honey and maple syrup, and promote their fructose-high products as “healthy” and “natural”. They also try to hide their sugar content by giving sugar many different names. They often include several different types of sugar in their product, and scatter these throughout the ingredients list to confuse people into thinking the product has less sugar than it really does.

Here are some different names for high-fructose sugar substances:

  • Agave
  • Honey
  • Dried fruits including raisins, sultanas, apricots, etc.
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Fructose Syrup
  • Grape Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Invert Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Organic Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Castor Sugar
  • Cane Sugar Crystals
  • Treacle
  • Rice Syrup
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Carob Syrup
  • Corn Syrup Solids
  • Fruit Juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Florida crystals
  • Barbados sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Maple Syrup
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Refiner’s Syrup
  • Caramel
  • Panocha
  • Beet Sugar
  • Sorghum Syrup

Click below to read about how you may be consuming large amounts of hidden sugar without realising it in so-called “healthy” foods.

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The easy taste test

Not sure if a product contains fructose or not? There’s a fast and easy built-in way to find out. Does it taste sweet? If so – avoid it. Since milk, beer, liquor, and carbs do not taste sweet (unless fructose is added), it’s easy enough to realise they are safe to eat. Anything sweet-tasting probably contains fructose and should be avoided.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificially sweetened products can be a great alternative to help you reduce your fructose intake if you can’t bear to give up sweet-tasting things completely and would rather do a more gradual reduction.

But choosing safe alternatives is often a difficult process. Firstly, some substances advertised as “free from refined sugar” still contain high-fructose substances like honey, agave, molasses, and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Food manufacturers are deliberately confusing in their labelling so be careful. Do any of the ingredients sound like they came from a fruit? If you’re unsure, Google the ingredients and find out if they contain fructose.

Secondly, once you establish that a sweetener contains no fructose, the next step is to research its other potential side effects. Since most artificial sweeteners are made from chemical processes in labs, I tend to avoid them.

However, if you can’t bear the taste of a pie without ketchup, a Stevia-sweetened tomato sauce is available in the health food section of Coles.

tomato sauce

And if it’s too hard to quit Coca Cola cold-turkey, try switching to Diet Coke for a while. As your sugar addiction subsides, you will find you crave the sweet taste less and less. Your palate adjusts and you learn to appreciate the subtle flavours of things without sweetness. And the metallic aftertaste of the artificial sweetener will start to bother you until you are able to cut it out completely. But if you need to use an artificial sweetener like a nicotine patch while quitting fructose, go for it!

Here are some of the safer sugar alternatives available:

  • Rice malt syrup is an all-natural, chemical-free, mildly sweet-tasting syrup which contains zero fructose and converts to glucose in our body. It can be obtained at your local bulk foods or health store, or in the health section of your supermarket. David Gillespie’s book, the Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook contains many recipes for delicious cakes, ice creams and biscuits made using this substance, and they taste just as delicious as sweets baked from sugar.
  • Dextrose is a substance that resembles grains of sugar but contains zero fructose, and converts to glucose in our body. It is used in making beer, and so can be found at a beer brewing supplies shop, or in the beer brewing section of your supermarket.
  • Stevia is a natural substance made from a South American plant, but it tastes 150 times sweeter than normal sugar (sucrose), so it only needs to be added in tiny amounts to make a product taste sweet, and therefore has less health impact.

A full description of safe and unsafe products and artificial sweeteners is available in David Gillespie’s book, Sweet Poison.

Plenty of fructose-free recipes for delicious foods, including cakes, ice cream, cookies and other things sweetened with harmless rice malt syrup and dextrose (which are pure glucose) are available at these websites:

Sugar-Free Recipes website by David Gillespie

“That Sugar Film” Recipes

Why do I keep saying “Quit Sugar” when what I really mean is “reduce your intake of concentrated fructose”?

When I say “Quit Sugar”, I don’t mean “stop eating glucose” or “stop eating carbs” or “stop eating fruit”. What I mean is “Stop eating concentrated forms of fructose and eat just a couple of pieces of fruit a day.” But that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it in a blog title, does it? Besides, before reading this website most people don’t really understand what fructose is, or how it differs from other types of sugar, so it’s easier to simplify things. But essentially when I say “Quit Sugar” it’s just an abbreviation for a diet low in fructose.

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