Attention all: rice malt syrup is still sugar. 

31st January, 2016

I have no issue with people being more aware of their added sugar intake and taking steps to reduce this.

What I object to is the misleading advertising that is taking advantage of our culture’s heightened awareness around sugar and the fact that many people aren’t aware of the different types of sugar and how our body digests these.

If I make a batch of cookies using regular sugar (sucrose) and someone else makes the same recipe using rice malt syrup, these ingredients will both be broken down into glucose by our bodies digestive process. Sucrose is broken into glucose and fructose, however the amount of fructose in one or even a few cookies is not enough to be harmful in the context of one’s whole diet. The rice malt syrup cookies are not superior or healthier than the ones made with sucrose. Neither sugar offers much in the way of vitamins, minerals or dietary fibre; rice malt syrup has a considerably higher GI than sucrose. If you want to learn more, dietitian Catherine Saxelby wrote this article.

A key point that often gets missed in the battle of the sugars, whether it’s rice syrup, coconut nectar, stevia, sucrose or fructose, is that these ingredients are not the mainstay of our diet. Provided we nourish our bodies with adequate veggies, fruits, whole-grains, protein foods and healthy fats, we can enjoy food with added sugar, whatever the type, and still be fit and healthy. Importantly, a flexible approach to the types of sugar we use, allows us to engage freely with food in a social and cultural sense which is arguably equally as important as fuelling our bodies well.

If you have excessive amounts of sucrose in your diet, you may benefit more from focusing on increasing your intake of the fresh whole foods mentioned above, rather than replacing the sucrose with a different type of sugar. Also, for many people who consume excess sugary food, what really needs addressing is not the sugar, but the various factors that have lead to such a high intake in the first place. Such factors include; food accessibility, education, economic status, social culture, media, political, psychological, disordered eating/eating disorders, body image and I’m sure there are some I have missed!