Unexpected Health Benefits Of Naturally Occurring Sugars

Sugar gets a bad rap, but it's easy to see why. Too much sugar has been found to cause heart disease, weight gain, liver disease, and kidney failure (per WebMD). Added sugars, in particular, are known to spike blood sugar, increase inflammation in the body, and contribute to the development of diabetes, Harvard Medical School explains.

However, not all sugar is created equal. Some sugar — like the added sugars associated with certain health conditions — are highly processed and hidden in everything from deli meats to tomato sauce. According to Healthline, these sugars go by dozens of different names on food labels, making them hard to spot. Added sugars are largely to blame for Americans' excessive sugar consumption (per the American Heart Association).

Other sugars are naturally occurring in foods that don't typically require food labels, like fruits and vegetables. Unlike health-wrecking added sugars, naturally occurring sugars offer several important benefits.

The body needs some sugar to function properly

First, there's one important point to get out of the way: the body can't tell the difference between added sugars and sugars that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk, and other whole foods (per WebMD) — so what makes naturally occurring sugars healthier?

Foods that contain naturally occurring sugars are often packed with fiber, which can help control blood sugar spikes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fruits and vegetables with natural sugars also contain nutrients that support a healthy diet. Registered dietician Georgie Fear explains to Healthline that these nutrients can offset some of the negative effects of sugar. Additionally, foods that contain naturally occurring sugars tend to have less sugar overall than foods with added sweeteners. This makes it easier to avoid eating too much sugar in the first place.

Naturally occurring sugars are also necessary for the body to function properly. "Glucose [from sugar] is the number one food for the brain, and it's an extremely important source of fuel throughout the body," Dr. Kristina Rother, a pediatrician and sweetener expert, told News In Health. Some sugar is essential to keep the entire body running smoothly.

A healthy amount of naturally occurring sugars can also help control insulin. Just as excess sugar may lead to the development of diabetes, too little can also trigger the condition (per MedicalNewsToday).