'Food Unwrapped': Channel 4 Show Uncovers Some Surprising Truths About Sugar

They've finally answered the age-old question of which is healthier, brown or white?

19/09/2016 17:43

Sugar: we’re all consuming far too much of it.

A recent report from Public Health England (PHE) found that adults and children are consuming more than double the recommended amount of sugar on a daily basis. Meanwhile teenagers are consuming triple the recommended daily intake.

Channel 4’s hour-long ‘Food Unwrapped’ special hopes to shed some light on the situation

During the show, presenters Matt and Kate set out to discover whether brown sugar is healthier than the white stuff, as well as whether “healthy and natural” sugar alternatives - such as agave syrup - are actually better for you.

Spoiler alert: they’re not. 

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During the show, Matt discovers that brown and white sugar both derive from the sugar cane plant. The colour is simply influenced by what happens in the factory.

With darker sugar, the syrup is handled differently and mixed with molasses, which contains tiny amounts of nutrients and minerals such as iron.

So the more molasses you remove, the lighter the sugar is.

The process of sugar syrup being mixed with molasses to create brown sugar could be where the idea that brown is “healthier” than white sugar came from.

However Matt soon discovers that, actually, neither is better for you.

All of the brown sugars contain such tiny amounts of nutrients and minerals that any health benefits are minimal. It’s simply a case of preference.


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The presenters also look into whether natural sugar alternatives like agave syrup are better for health than sugar. 

They travel to Mexico, where the syrup originates from, and end up discussing the sweet alternative with unlikely agave entrepreneur, 1980s showbiz legend Cleo Rocos.

Rocos explains that agave syrup is cooked slowly and over a long period of time, which helps it retain “more natural goodness”.

However it still contains roughly the same amount of calories as sugar.

Despite this, it is a third sweeter than sugar - so the idea is that you use less. It also has a low glycemic index (GI), which is meant to have a less dramatic effect on blood sugar levels.

However it soon comes to light that just because a food has a low GI, it doesn’t necessarily make it healthy: chocolate cake, for example, has a lower GI than carrots.  

All in all, the show concludes that natural alternatives aren’t any better for you than sugar, because the health benefits you’d get from them are, once again, minimal. 

For more alarming truths from the show, check out ‘Food Unwrapped: The Truth About Sugar’ tonight at 8pm on Channel 4. 

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