Ask the Dietitian: Is it better to eat natural forms of sugar instead of refined white sugar?

We were born to love sugar. Humans have a natural taste preference for sweets. Back in the day, sugar was a source of extra calories that was easily burned off with exercise and everyday physical activity. Nowadays, all of that extra sugar is going straight to our waistlines. Added sugars can lead to obesity which then leads to complications such as diabetes and heart disease.

A calorie of sugar is a calorie of sugar, no matter where it comes from. That being said, sources of sugars such as honey, agave and pure maple syrup are much sweeter than refined white sugar, which means that you will likely use less of them and in the end consume fewer sugar calories. Sugars such as honey and agave also break down more slowly than refined white sugar, which can be beneficial for diabetics (but caution: portion size is still important).

Overall message: Sugar intake should be limited, no matter where the sugar comes from. The American Heart Association recommends women limit their added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams a day, and men no more than 30 grams a day.