Natural Sugar vs Refined Sugar: What's the Difference?

Trying to be a healthy eater can be confusing. There is a constant barrage of advertisements for fad diets telling us completely opposite things, and it’s hard to know what to believe. There’s one thing we can all agree on, and it’s no fad - natural is best.

When you hear the word “sugar,” you probably picture the standard white granules. That’s the highly-processed refined sugar most of us grew up with. There are a lot of alternatives to make things deliciously sweet that are far better for your body.

Refined Sugar

First, let’s talk about white sugar. White sugar is sugar that comes from sugar cane or sugar beets and is then refined through a chemical and filtration processes. That also means that all of the natural vitamins and minerals are left behind, leaving only pure carbohydrates.

Refined sugar gets broken down quickly by the body, causing your blood sugar to skyrocket which is inevitably followed by a crash. Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommends eating foods that are low in refined sugars to reduce risk for obesity which can, in turn, put you at risk for certain types of cancer.

Some refined sugars that you might recognize the name of are:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Cane Juice
  • Corn Syrup
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Turbinado

A lot of work goes into refinement. Check it out:

Natural Sugars

At Maxine’s Heavenly, we use healthier, natural sweeteners. Natural sugars are the sugars found in fruits, vegetables, dairy, and honey. They contain the nutrients natural to the plant, which makes them a better alternative.

Some natural sugars you may recognize are honey and maple syrup. We use coconut sugar, coconut nectar, and dates.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm. It tastes similar to brown sugar, but is much lower on the glycemic index, which means it will not spike your blood sugar like white sugar. In the process of turning sap into sugar, vitamins, healthy fats, and fiber aren’t removed. That fiber in coconut sugar? It’s called Inulin, and it’s something special. It may help the body reduce the absorption of glucose, with studies showing it may even help women with Type 2 Diabetes. Inulin also stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria, an immune booster found in probiotics.

Coconut Nectar

A sweetener which comes from the coconut palm blossom is coconut nectar. Apart from the obvious benefits of the low glycemic index, coconut nectar contains amino acids, vitamins, and minerals - including inulin. It has a taste similar to molasses and can be replace sugar 1:1 in any recipe. Tapping the stalk for the nectar doesn’t harm the coconut tree, so this is a very sustainable source of sugar, too.

Fun fact - coconut nectar is just coconut sugar that hasn't been heated into granules.
Check out this quick video about how coconut sugar is made.


Finally, let’s talk about dates. We love long walks on the beach, but we also love to use the fruit as a sweetener. They are packed with nutrients like vitamins, fiber, and iron. The significant amount of fiber slows down your body’s absorption of the date’s sugars, contributing to its low glycemic index.

Dates have 3 important types of antioxidants to protect your cells from things like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Studies have even shown that dates can promote brain health and even help women in labor. Bonus? They also keep our cookies nice and soft.

There are plenty of delicious ways to cut white sugar out of your diet, and Maxine’s Heavenly uses some of the best. We are proud of our cookie ingredients and we can’t wait for you to taste them yourself. We have a variety of cookie flavors to choose from including traditional chocolate chocolate chunk and new flavors like walnut banana bread and snickerdoodle. There’s something to satisfy every sweet craving. Explore our selection of naturally sweetened, sugar conscious cookies and order yourself a box today.

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