Difference Between Sugar and Added Sugar!

sugarIf you look at the nutrition information for a banana and a serving of Starburst candies, you might be surprised to notice a few similarities - including the amount of sugar. Both foods have about 28 grams of sugar.

Of course, there’s a difference: A banana has naturally occurring sugar while the candies have added sugar. What’s the difference? And is one for of sugar healthier than the other?

All sugars are a form of carbohydrate. According to Calorie Count:

Naturally occurring sugars include lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and vegetables and maltose in beer. Added sugars originate from corn, beets, grapes, and sugar cane, which are processed before being added to foods. The body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because they are identical chemically.

Sugar is sugar, and we know that all of us get way too much of it. In fact, the average American eats 130 pounds of sugar per year. But the story doesn’t end there.

In our above example of a banana versus Starburst candies, no one would argue that the candy is a healthier choice. That’s because the banana comes loaded with essential nutrients that our bodies need. The candies, on the other hand, don’t.

Here’s the deal: Many foods that contain naturally occurring sugar also contain some really great stuff - so you need to pay attention to other things like vitamins, minerals and fiber to get a more complete picture. Foods with added sugar are often nutritionally devoid. Think donuts, cake and soda.

And it’s worth noting that a nutrition label doesn’t distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. You’ll have to read the ingredients carefully to see if sugar is added. If ingredients like barley malt, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, maltose, molasses, etc., are listed, then you’ll know there is added sugar in the food product.

Having said that, it’s still wise to minimize all forms of sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is still sugar, and there are plenty of ways to get nutrients without the sweet stuff - added or otherwise.

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Tara Chesworth says:

    Hi Davey,

    I’ve been reading your posts for a long time now and I see that you keep bringing up this point about excess sugar. However, I was wondering how one goes about getting less sugar, especially naturally occurring sugar. What kind of foods and drinks can you get nutrients out of that have a low sugar percentage? I’m trying hard to kick my sugar habit and lose those extra pounds but I just don’t know what to eat for main meals. Could you perhaps give a list of your favorite, low sugar, low kcal meals?

  2. Luke Mathew says:

    “The body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because they are identical chemically.” - Actually, this is not completely true. A banana contains fructose, which is digested differently than added sugars, which mainly contain glucose. Fructose needs to be processed by the liver and changed into glucose.

  3. Sam Verlinden says:

    Hi Davey

    So, I just wanted to share a sugar related experience of mine 🙂

    In February of this year I decided to avoid all added sugar. It started out as just an experiment I did as part of lent, but I am proud to say that I am still more or less sugar free. It was not easy, especially not in the beginning, but I was very very strict and banned everything from my diet which had added sugar. After a while I felt lighter and the need for sweet disappeared. When lent was over I lost ten kilos, without exercising more or eating less.

    Now you say that the body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. I am no scientist, but my experience somehow indicates otherwise.

    When I was about two weeks sugar free, I accidentally drank a small carton of soy milk which had added sugar. It was soy milk of a different brand than I normally drink (a brand that never adds sugar to any of its products) and I didn’t think to check the label. Anyway, when I was halfway through the carton (containing 25cl of soy milk) I got an instant headache. Then I checked the label and read that it had added sugar. After lent I tried eating things with added sugar a couple of times, every single time with the same result: a stinging headache. So even now I avoid added sugar. I do eat fruit however, and fruit gives me no headaches.

    I really feel great without sugar and could recommend it to everyone 🙂

    Kind regards
    Sam (Belgium, Europe)

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  5. Joshua Richards says:

    Hi Davey,

    I’ve heard people talk about carbs, and many of them have said that we should stay away from sweets because they contain sugar. But when you’re a baker with knowledge of biology you start to question their sources of information. I don’t think the problem with sweets is the type of sugar, but instead the level of sugar. If you go out and buy a treat, often times they are loaded with more sugar than what I thought was necessary for it to taste good. I should know because I have created a low sugar cake recipe that’s tastes just as good as a box cake mix, and I make a low sugar frosting that goes with it. So my question is do you think that the bigger problem with sweets is the kind of sugar used or the amount of sugar added?

  6. Joshua Richards says:

    And if you think its the amount of sugar used, do you think sweets can taste just as good while not having much sugar in them? I think so but I’m also weird so I need someone else’s opinion.

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