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Raisin' Hell: Craisins Drive Me Crazy—The Truth about Natural Versus Added Sugar

This morning I got into a fight with a fellow RD. There was even some hair pulling involved. Actually—that was my baby daughter.

In truth, it wasn’t an argument as much as a civil debate. And one of the joys of being in the field of nutrition is encountering all the information out there and parsing out the truth from the false.

This morning’s topic was the added sugar in cranberries. RD #1 claimed that the added sugar in cranberries was not a concern, since they start off with so little naturally occurring sugar (i.e. they are bitter as Heck!). RD #2 (me) asserted that naturally occurring sugar is still preferable to added sugar and that they need not add SO much sugar to cranberries since there are ways to prepare cranberry dishes with minimal added sugar that are quite delicious.

So, what is the truth?

Do craisins (i.e. sweetened cranberries) really have the same amount of sugar as raisins?

Is added sugar worse than naturally occurring sugar?

Was it really my daughter pulling my hair?

(Ok, that last one we already figured out, and it’s not relevant to the topic at hand.)

One—yes. 1/3 cup raisins has 28 grams of sugar, whereas 1/3 cup cranberries has 26 grams. But unsweetened cranberries start off with 3 grams, so that’s a whopping 23 grams ADDED SUGAR!

Two—yes. Added sugar is metabolized differently than naturally occurring sugar. This is because naturally occurring sugar is combined with other nutrients in the food that help slow down its absorption and thus is less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. Examples include the fiber in a pear, and the protein in milk and other dairy products.

And that is why I will continue to make cranberry dishes without added sugar!

For example, this recipe below:

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