Natural Sugar vs Processed Sugar (With Healthy Swaps)

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Rebecca Moses
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natural vs processed

Have you ever wondered whether natural sugar (think of fruit and honey) is better for you than processed sugar (what you put in coffee)? If it’s less processed, then it stands to reason that it would be better for you, right? The answer is mixed. We’re going to do our part to help clarify the “natural sugar vs processed sugar” debate. We’ll also provide you with a few handy alternatives and swaps for sugar which should help you look and feel better daily. Let’s start with a simple question, however: What is sugar?

Glucose, Fructose and Sucrose

If it ends in ‘-ose’, it’s a sugar. Which one you eat determines in part what effect it has on your blood sugar levels.

Glucose is the simplest form of sugar and it’s what your cells use as their main source of energy. It’s easily broken down, but it’s also incredibly easy to eat too much of it. This will send your blood sugar levels rocketing, which isn’t good for anybody.

Fructose, sometimes called fruit sugar because it’s mainly found in fruit, is slightly harder to break down. It is still, however, a simple sugar.

Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose. It’s what basic table sugar is made from. Since it’s more processed, your body has to work harder to convert it to useful energy, meaning it builds up in your bloodstream more easily.

Why Do We Have Processed Sugar?

Like all processed foods, processed sugar exists because of our desire for longevity and consistency in our foods. Adding processed sugar to foods slows the rate at which they go bad and allows manufacturers to create a consistent product. Nature varies, which is bad for business when you’re making ten million packaged cookies.

What Happens If I Eat Too Much Sugar?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s processed or natural; excess sugar gets stored as fat.

There’s no way around this. Too much sugar, natural or processed, is bad for your health.

So, How Is Natural Sugar Better for Me?

natural sugar vs processed sugar - decisions

Natural sugars, like those found in honey and fruit, have a lower glycemic index than processed white sugar, which means they raise your blood sugar more slowly and not as much. That’s one reason why natural sugars are better.

The other reason seeking out natural sugar is better for your health has less to do with the sugar itself and more to do with the foods you find it in. Processed sugar is usually found in processed foods, right? Cakes, cookies, ready meals and the like have little else to offer in the way of micronutrients. Natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetables, which come with an assortment of vitamins and minerals. This contributes to a healthy body and to slowing the absorption of the sugar itself.

Sugar is sugar no matter how you look at it. If you eat too much of it, you’ll gain weight. Choose a natural source of sugar, however, and your blood sugar levels won’t spike and you’ll benefit from a range of other nutrients.

Sugar Swaps: What to Eat and Drink Instead of Processed Sugar

We’ll get into a few of our favorite swaps for foods and snacks in a second, but we’d like to start off by addressing one of the easiest and most beneficial ways of swapping out the sugar.

If you’re someone who drinks a lot of tea or coffee each morning, then chances are you’re consuming a lot of excess calories.

Now, swapping out the coffee or black tea can be difficult. While you can do it with plain old green tea, we figured that if your going to do this, we want you to drink the best. And by the best, we mean Matcha.

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What Is Matcha?

Matcha is to regular green tea what ground coffee is to instant. Made from the same kind of leaves as green tea but with a little extra care and attention, Matcha is more nutritious and has a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor. It is a type of green tea that is grown in warm climates and comes as a fine green powder.

Matcha is different from regular loose or bagged green tea. It contains more antioxidants and because of the extra care and effort put into producing it, Matcha can be a little more expensive. It’s grown like regular green tea at first, but then for the last few weeks it’s grown under cover and tended carefully by hand. Then it’s picked, dried and finely ground.

How To Use Matcha

Matcha doesn’t need to be messed with for you to experience its full glory. In fact, the less you alter it, the better.

Take the finely ground Matcha powder and blend it with:

  • Smoothies
  • Protein shakes
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Plain hot water

Your skin and general well-being will thank you for it, and so will your waistline.

Alright, now that we’ve significantly plugged matcha as a sugar-free, health-boosting alternative to coffee and black tea, what about snacks? What can you replace those sugary time bombs with that won’t make you feel like you’re being cheated? Here are five of our favorites, in no particular order:

Fruits and Vegetables — the most obvious swap to make is to just eat more fruits and veggies. They come with their own natural sugars, of course, but remember what we said about lower glycemic index and that natural foods come loaded with other nutrients, too. If you’re feeling industrious, you can try growing some yourself and give yourself an organic treat.

RXBar — As far as protein bars go, there are a lot out there which are loaded with organic ingredients and superfoods, but are also unfortunately high in sugar. RXBar is one of the only bars you’ll find which tastes great and is made from great ingredients.

RXBAR Protein Bars, Protein Snack, Snack Bars, Chocolate Sea Salt, 22oz Box (12 Bars)

Check RXBAR Whole Food Protein Bar Price on Amazon

Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies — So many savory crackers still contain sugar, but when the ingredients used are of quality, the added sugar just isn’t necessary. Annie’s fits those qualifications.

Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers 11 oz. Box (Pack of 4)

Check Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies Price on Amazon

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky — With 4g of sugar per serving, we’ll let this one slide and say that if you’re going for protein and need something more savory, then beef jerky is a great call.

Jack Link's Meat Snacks Beef Jerky, Original, 16 Ounce (Pack of 1)

Check Jack Link's Beef Jerky Price on Amazon

Planter’s Mixed Nuts — It doesn’t get much healthier than swapping out your sugary snacks for mixed nuts. Loaded with protein, good fats and all the nutrients you need, this natural selection is one of our favorites.

PLANTERS Deluxe Salted Mixed Nuts, Roasted Cashews, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Pistachios, and Pecans, Party Snacks, Plant-Based Protein, Quick Snack for Adults, After School Snack, 15.25oz Canister

Check Planter's Mixed Nuts Price on Amazon

You can’t avoid sugar entirely and nor should you. Natural sugars are an important part of your diet, but finding ways to regulate your intake by making smarter choices with the foods and drinks you consume should be a priority you start taking very seriously. You can also look into other healthy foods that will make you feel great and start making a general lifestyle change today.


  • Rebecca Moses

    Depending on the day, you’ll find Rebecca in a well thought-out ensemble that she handcrafted herself, or in hiking and rock climbing gear. An avid outdoorswoman, cyclist, and cat lover, Rebecca reminds us all on the Groom+Style team just how much we need to get outdoors. She’s worked in spas and salons off and on before going full-time with the G+S team. Linkedin: