On a previous post, I received this comment:

Hi Erika, wonderful blog and interesting read. However, I think this new HFCS paranoia is causing people to over look and not understand the real problem. Sadly, I gather the same misconception in this blog & please correct me if I’m wrong.

One major factor to insulin resistance & type II diabetes is large consumption of fructose. HFCS & all other simple sugars contain large quantities of it. (I tried to get exact ratios but its sounds like most are 1 part fructose: 1 part another compound.) And the same holds true for some versions of HFCS. So swapping any product for the sucrose or fructose version instead of HFCS will probably gain no benefit. (ie. soda with sugar ).

So why not write a rant about “Reasons to forgo food with added sugar!”?

BTW, I don’t want anyone to think this comment means to forgo eating fruit. Fruit is nutritionally dense unlike most processed food.

Well, why not, eh?

The post to which she refers is my post regarding the advertisements in favor of high fructose corn syrup.While the purpose of that post was to give an answer to the unasked question those advertisements posed (which, basically, was “how can you hate or avoid something you know so little about?), the commenter poses a very important point that, I think, deserves a lot more time than a simple comment.

To be honest, I don’t know whether there’s much purpose to a “reasons to forgo food with added sugar” rant, simply because it breaks down to an understanding of “natural sugar” against “processed sugar.”

Okay, here goes.

In nature, the primary place you find sugar is in fruit (there’s also honey, but we’ll save that for another day.) The sugar in fruit is… fructose.

Sidebar: This, I presume, is why people always ask if they should “stop eating fruit,” mixing the anti-high fructose corn syrup message up with the understanding that fructose is a “natural sugar found in fruit.” There’s a big difference between the two.

Whenever you find fruit in nature, it is paired with two things: nutrients and fiber. Emphasis on the fiber. The fiber within the fruit blunts the impact of the sugar on your system and helps cleanse your insides out at the same time.

I always laugh when I talk about sugar, because I think about how white table sugar is produced. When I first came to Miami to visit, I stayed with an old friend and her hubby. I remember sitting on a chair, and seeing her walk up toward me with a long stick in her hand. She sat down next to me, took out a knife, cut a chunk off the stick and bit into it. I’m like, “What on Earth is that?”

“Sugar cane. This is where sugar comes from.”

“And you’re just eating it like that? Your teeth are gonna be sitting next to you in a minute.”

She definitely laughed long and hard at me, and kept on munching away. Aside from the numerous violations I committed in tryin’ to tell her how to do her, I was wrong for a number of reasons.

Consider how table sugar is created:

“Once you get into sugar, you are in sugar for a lifetime,” Archbold said on a recent morning. “People think we just crush the cane and turn it into sugar, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

However, he stresses that the end result is a natural product that is made from nothing but the cane.

From a metal catwalk high above the mill’s floor, Archbold watches as sugar cane is brought in from the field by truck. It’s unloaded 25 tons at a time and fed into the highly industrialized computer-controlled mill. It’s mechanically shredded by huge metal cane knives. Next it’s milled, which means water is added as the cane is mashed.

The purpose of the mill is to extract the sucrose from the cane. A stalk of cane is 13 percent sucrose and 11 percent fiber. The rest is water.

The liquid sucrose is separated from the fiber. Then the raw cane juice is heated, filtered, purified and the water is evaporated. What’s left is a sweet, golden syrup. After more boiling, a rich mixture of crystals and molasses forms. The molasses is separated from the crystals, then the sugar crystals are dried and cooled before packaging. [source: From Cane Field To Your Table…]

The difference between table sugar and the cane from which the sugar comes? There’s no possible way I’m getting as much sugar from chewing through (and swallowing) all that fiber as if I were simply swallowing a tablespoon of sugar. Why? Because with everything else in the sugar cane, I’ll fill up much quicker. There’s no possible way a tablespoon of sugar carries the nutrients that a stalk of sugar cane. Why? Because everything was filtered OUT Of the sugar cane to make the table sugar.. including the nutrients. Lastly, the fiber outright ensures that I’m not going to wreck havoc on my system. A tablespoon of table sugar cannot do that… and it comes from sugar cane.

The sweet part is separated from the part of the food that’s supposed to protect you from the element that, by itself, is harmful to your system. So no – most teas, coffees and juices with sugar added to them have the same effect. Baked goods made with “refined” flours (which go through a similar process, resulting in a flour devoid of fiber) have the same effect. Because of that fiber, it protects not only my insides, but my teeth as well. Something that, again, you won’t find in your average sugary item.

That’s the problem with sugar. In most cases – the way it’s used often results in there being very little to blunt the impact of the sugar on your system, thus resulting in it having the same effect as an overabundance of high fructose corn syrup in your daily diet. I won’t even get on the affects that an abundance of high fructose corn syrup, an abundance of sugar and a lack of fiber can have on our appearance. The difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup is simply that high fructose corn syrup is in almost every processed food item, and almost every processed food item is devoid of fiber.

Why is it devoid of fiber? Simple. Fiber expires quickly, and food manufacturers need their products to be able to sit on shelves for an extended period of time.

So, to address the comment fully (in over a thousand words, with my long-winded self), unnatural forms of sugar are, flat out, unnatural… and our bodies cannot handle them in mass quantities. Do yourself a favor and reevaluate how much of it you have to have… and your body will thank you for it!