Sugar is a widely occurring natural substance found in many foods and used as a sweetener. Chemically, sugar is a carbohydrate, more specifically a disaccharide composed of two monosaccharide molecules:
There are different types of sugars found in our diet. The most commonly used sugar is sucrose, which is obtained from sugarcane or sugar beets. Sucrose is often referred to as table sugar, granulated sugar, or refined sugar. It is the typical white, crystalline sugar that we find in many foods and beverages. You can refer to the table above for plant-based, sugar-containing foods.
Sugar In The Body
Sugar can serve as a quick source of energy and temporarily improve mood as it stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. It is important for physical activities and mental performance.
Although sugar provides energy to the body, excessive consumption is often associated with health problems such as tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes. For this reason, it is recommended to limit sugar intake and consciously choose healthier alternatives, such as consuming fresh fruit instead of sugary snacks.
By preparing your own meals, you have control over the ingredients and can reduce the sugar content. Avoid using ready-made sauces, dressings, or spice blends as they often contain hidden sugars. Instead, make homemade sauces and dressings using natural ingredients.
Does Sugar Contain Calories?
Sugar contains calories. One gram of sugar provides about 4 calories. When you consume foods or drinks with added sugar, you're supplying calories to your body. High sugar consumption can therefore lead to high calorie intake. Check out the calorie chart with vegan foods for more information. If you want to control your sugar intake, you should keep an eye on your overall calorie intake and follow a balanced diet.
Fitness goals, such as weight loss or muscle building, can be negatively affected by sugar consumption. High consumption of sugary foods and drinks can lead to excessive calorie intake, making it harder to achieve fitness goals.
The need for sugar is not high since the body can meet its energy needs from various sources, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that added sugar intake should not exceed 10% of daily calorie intake. Reducing it to 5% of daily calorie intake, which is approximately 25 grams of sugar per day, is considered even more beneficial for health.
Choose Natural Sources Of Sugar
Instead of relying on refined sugar sources like candies, soft drinks, and processed foods, try to obtain natural sugar from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. While they also contain sugar, they also provide essential nutrients and fiber. Vegan foods that contain natural sugar include:
- Fruit is a wonderful source of natural sugar and contains a variety of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. Sugar-rich fruits include bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, mangoes, pineapples, pears, strawberries, watermelons, and peaches. Here's the fruit sugar chart. Drying fruits removes the water content, making them even sweeter. In dried form, raisins, dates, figs, plums, apricots, cranberries, bananas, apples, mangoes, and pineapples contain a lot of sugar.
- Fruit juices can have a high sugar content as they are made from pressed fruits. Orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, pineapple juice, cherry juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, pear juice, and mango juice are considered sugary juices and beverages according to the chart. Plant-based milk alternatives such as almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk can also contain natural sugar, especially if they are sweetened.
- Nuts and seeds are not known for their sugar content. However, they do contain small amounts of natural sugar. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds are healthy and sugary nuts and seeds.
- Legumes are an important source of protein and also contain higher levels of carbohydrates, including sugar. Sugary legumes include kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, white beans, soybeans, green peas, black-eyed beans, lima beans, and mung beans.
- Grains also contain natural sugar, although in moderate amounts. Complex carbohydrates are usually predominant. Oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, buckwheat, corn, wheat, rye, and amaranth fall into this group of sugar-rich grains.
- While vegetables generally don't contain much sugar, there are some vegan foods such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, turnips, and yellow beets that have a higher sugar content. Use this vegetable sugar table for more vegetables with higher sugar content.
- Some vegan sweeteners like coconut sugar, agave syrup, rice syrup, maple syrup, and date syrup are popular in vegan cuisine. While these sweeteners are considered alternative options to refined sugar, they still contain a high amount of sugar. Birch sugar (xylitol) is a sweetener that has a sugar-like sweetness but is not chemically classified as sugar. Xylitol belongs to the group of sugar alcohols and is derived from plant sources like birch wood.
Is Refined Sugar Vegan?
Refined sugar is often associated with animal products. Animal-derived bone char (animal-based activated charcoal) is commonly used in the refining process to whiten sugar. Fortunately, there are numerous vegan alternatives. Popular options include coconut sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, date syrup, birch sugar, or stevia. Additionally, organic sugar production typically avoids the use of animal-derived substances or refining processes.
Reducing Sugar Consumption
If you want to reduce your sugar consumption, you can do so gradually. Start with small changes, like reducing the sugar in your coffee or tea, or decreasing the consumption of sugary snacks. Over time, you can get used to the less sweet taste. Use the tables of low-sugar foods for this purpose: