What does ‘refined-sugar free’ actually mean?

You probably already know that Fresh Start recipes and products are refined sugar free, but do you know what this actually means? Sugar has many names and labels. It can feel like a maze! Let’s start at the beginning.

refined sugar

The two types of sugar to think about: “intrinsic sugars” and “free sugars

There are two terms used to describe sugars by the World Health Organisation, intrinsic sugars and free sugars.

 Intrinsic sugars sounds daunting – but it means that the sugar is wrapped up in fruits, vegetables and dairy. Intrinsic sugars are accompanied by vitamins and minerals, but also, in the case of fruits and vegetables, a fantastic fibre hit. Because of the fibre, intrinsic sugars tend to be digested more slowly – great news for our blood sugar and energy levels. 

Free sugars on the other hand, often don’t reap the same benefits. Free sugars are those that are processed and added to foods, for example syrups and powdered sugars, but also naturally occurring sugars found in products such as honey and fruit juice. You have likely seen the term ‘added sugar’ on labels, and these sugars will almost always be free sugars too. 

The international recommendation is to limit free sugars where possible, ideally to less than 5% of energy intake per day for health benefits. That’s about 6 and a quarter teaspoons (25g) for someone aiming for 2000 calories. Research suggests that Kiwi’s eat more than double that on a typical day – ouch! 

What does it mean to be “Refined Sugar Free”?

Typically, Refined Sugar Free means a product is only sweetened by natural sweeteners which have undergone minimal processing, but truthfully, it can mean a lot of different things. The claim – “Refined Sugar Free” – is not a regulated term so what one business considers refined sugar, the next may not. Limiting refined sugars doesn’t necessarily ensure the food is a good choice, but we avoid them in Fresh Start as it’s one way of limiting the amount of free sugar in your diet, so it can be a great place to start! 

What about Stevia and Thaumatin?

They may sound a bit scary, but Stevia and Thaumatin are actually extracts from plants. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Bertoni plant, native to South America. Thaumatin is from the Katemfe fruit – a rainforest plant from West Africa. Both Stevia and Thaumatin are great to have in our Fresh Start toolbox as they are non-nutritive sweeteners which means that they have no calories and no effect on blood sugar levels. Another benefit of these sweeteners is that they are about 400 times sweeter than sugar – meaning a little goes a long way! Keep in mind though, relying on non-nutritive sweeteners too often may make it challenging to grow accustomed to a less sweet taste! 

But here’s what is really important: the key when it comes to sugar – refined or not – is to simply use as little as possible

Our Fresh Start Dietitian is a nutrition detective, reviewing each recipe and product. It’s important to us that not only the source and amount of sugar is acceptable, but that overall, the product is wholesome and nutritious. With Fresh Start, getting sugar right has never been easier! 

Check out our fave refined-sugar free recipes:

Honey Nut & Raspberry Yoghurt Bark

Spiced Honey & Pecan Granola Bark

Tahini Choc Chunk Skillet Cookie

Catherine ‘Cucumber’

Dietitian, My Food Bag

As My Food Bag’s nutrition guru, Catherine makes sure all our recipes and products follow Nadia’s ‘Nude Food’ philosophy. She works closely with departments across the whole business including the Development Kitchen, Innovation and Marketing! “I have always loved people, food and science in equal parts, so I decided to base my career off nutrition science and become a Registered Dietitian. I like helping people to understand what I like to call ‘down-to-earth’ nutrition – no fads, detoxes, or buzz words here!” Her My Food Bag journey started a few years ago, when she was part of our Customer Love team during her studies. Before returning to My Food Bag, Catherine worked as a clinical Dietitian at a hospital.

When it comes to food, this foodie’s favourites couldn’t be more different! On the one hand, she can’t go without a good bread (especially a sandwich loaded with veggies!), and on the other hand she sneaks spinach into anything and everything that she can. When she’s not working, you’ll find her getting outdoors, escaping the city for a big walk and a picnic lunch, or enjoying the sunshine with live music and friends.

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