Shit you Should Know: The truth about sugar

Excuse my language for this title but I will explain in a sec. I recently took a much needed trip to my PT (physical therapist) as my shoulder pain was acting up per usual with all of the athletic activity I partake in (hello cross fit). My PT is located out of Reebok Crossfit Back Bay, and even though I am unsure if he actually works on cross fit patients, I seem to feel like he gets me and what my body goes through on a daily basis. Perhaps he does simply due to the sheer sounds that echo through the walls into his office during workouts. Or, perhaps because he is a PT genius (or so I think), he understands what I need. Regardless, we always end up on the topic of nutrition and on this particular day he had informed me that he recently switched up from his usually breakfast routine of two pieces of fruit in the morning to 2 eggs and some fruit. He couldn’t believe how much better he felt throughout the day! More energy, less hungry, not as cranky..etc. The difference here: The added protein! He then proclaimed ” this is simple shit people should know!” And of course the wheels started spinning…why not write a post on shit you should simply know about nutrition? Stuff that bothers me as a Dietitian that people don’t get. 

So here I am writing to you about what you should know about sugar. Agave, coconut, truvia, brown rice syrup, honey, you name it. Sugar is a hot topic right now and it maddens me sooooo much when people think they are being oh so healthy, when in actuality they just consumed a half cup of sugar without even knowing it! 


Lets start with agave: the sugar flying off of the shelves last year because it was “the next best thing.” What is agave? Agave is a natural sweetener with a pretty low glycemic index compared to some other sugars. Touted as having health benefits, it is widely used in our food industry now, but do not be fooled! The term “natural” just so you know, is not legally defined by U.S food regulators, so you better hope the manufacturer is telling the truth. Additionally, nutritionally, agave is not that much different that high fructose corn syrup. Agave is mostly fructose!


Next- maple syrup: Sugar made from the sap of the sugar maple. If we are discussing real maple sugar (not the processed junk you put on your pancakes as a kid), this isn’t such a bad choice. HOWEVER, maple syrup is still sugar! Supposedly, researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that maple syrup is filled with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It also contains zinc and potassium.  But liquid sugar is still sugar and too much sugar increases your risk of diabetes and weight gain. Think about 14-20 grams of sugar per tablespoon 

Truvia: Oh good ol Truvia. Truvia is a “natural” sweetener made with erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors. Now while erythritol is a naturallyoccurring sweetener found in many fruits, in nature it is present in such small amounts. So the erythritol is made by chemically converting genetically modified corn and then it ferments to create glucose and then processed further to create erythritol. That is not to say you can’t find a non-GMO erythritol, you can! And erythritol has almost no effect on blood sugar- making it a good substitute for diabetics. However, just be wary of how “natural” this product is. 


Coconut Sugar: I always save the best for last and Coconut sugar is by far the hottest sugar out there right now. Let me break it down for you. Coconut sugar essentially comes from the sap of the coconut plant. Similar to maple syrup, it contains zinc and potassium, and is honestly natural! It also has a lower glycemic index than table sugar, hence minimally impacting blood sugar. However, I have a difficult believing this considering it is 70% sucrose. 

All in all, while I recommend cutting back on refined sugars, there isn’t much difference between white table sugar and other natural sugars including coconut, honey, and maple syrup. To the body they are all sugar to be converted to glucose! So it really comes down to preference and if you prefer things more in their natural state but please people, remember sugar is sugar! At the end of the day don’t think you can go out and eat all of the “natural peanut butter cups” or maple syrup candies from whole foods just because it is natural! Oh yeah and this applies to KIND bars too ( which I also believe have too much sugar). Start looking for added sugars in ice creams, nutrition bars, yogurt, cereals, chips, low-fat products, sauces, and even tea! You might be shocked at what you find..

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