With the confusing marketing tactics of the big sugar industry, it is extremely difficult to determine the facts about sugar. What we’re told in media advertisements backed by big money is that refined sugar is all natural. Big industry usually always fall back to the argument of “sugar is sugar” and that’s the only way it acts in your body.

While this seems logical to the viewer, they are failing to recognize the most important part of this argument. Before heavy machinery and genetic modification, the sugar that humans consumed was in it’s raw form and in the form of whole foods.

Eating a piece of fruit with all of it’s fiber and micronutrients is not the same as dipping a spoon into a bag of highly processed white sugar and taking a bite. So while both forms are sugar, the former is how we were meant to consume it. Once you strip away the macro and micronutrients with machines and other chemical processes, the product is a lifeless white substance with no true nutritional value.

The necessary question to determine whether or not the sugar in front of you is indeed, natural, is this: Can you make this in nature? If the answer is no, then you may not consider that form of sugar to be natural no matter what the writing on the package seems to tell you.

There are so many ways to refine natural sugar into a highly processed substance for use in many food products (think canned foods, salad dressing & condiments). High fructose corn syrup is a major culprit in this trend of food engineering and actually uses genetic modification to produce the result of this widespread food additive.

There was recently a push to frame high fructose corn syrup as no different from natural sugar. As we return to the question above, there are no chemistry labs found in nature that can genetically modify the sugars in corn and infuse them into a recipe for a sports drink marketed at children. So our answer becomes, no – high fructose corn syrup is NOT natural. The Sweet Freedom team even goes so far as to label it as the “crack-cocaine of the sugar world”.

Now that we know what isn’t natural, how do we know what is? The best forms of sugar to consume are those that are contained in whole foods i.e. fruits and vegetables or other forms already found in nature i.e. maple syrup and raw honey.

It is necessary to be mindful of the quality of maple syrup and honey you are buying as both of these substances have highly processed forms found on grocery store shelves. Make sure to do your research and determine that the honey you are buying is in its raw form from bee farms that use ethical practices.

Much of the honey sold on supermarket shelves is from bees that are often drugged and fed sugar water which causes them to produce a lower quality honey and actually ends up lowering their immune system. This ultimately contributes to the threat of bee extinction that we are currently facing.

Now that you have the tools to determine natural versus unnatural, you can feel good about the choice you make in the food marketplace. If ever you are confused about a product, always ask yourself, “How close to nature is this product?” and you will undoubtedly find your answer.