Wondering What the Natural Sugar Content of Elderberries is?
We’ve received many questions about the natural sugar content of elderberries and folks are interested in the sugar content of our recipes, too. This two part blog series attempts to answer these questions and start a dialogue, too.
Sugar and the problems with eating too much of it has been in the news a lot lately. Excess consumption of sugar can lead to all kinds of health problems including diabetes and obesity. We are all familiar with table sugar, made from sugar cane, but did you know that there are actually six types of sugars? These naturally occurring sugars are found in all fruits and vegetables and our bodies metabolize these sugars differently.
The six main types of sugar are sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose and galactose. In general, fruit is rich in naturally occurring fructose, sucrose and glucose. Fructose is a type of sugar that is found naturally in fruit, vegetables and honey, and is twice as sweet as table sugar but has a much lower glycemic index. Sucrose is a two-part sugar comprised of glucose and fructose. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar molecule — the type of sugar that fructose and sucrose are eventually converted to during the process of digestion.
The amount of naturally occurring sugar varies greatly from one type of fruit to the next. As an example, an average banana contains about 15 grams of naturally occurring sugars, whereas 1 cup of blackberries contains about 8 grams of naturally occurring sugars. Because each piece of fruit is variable in size and sugar content, these figures should be considered an average, and are useful for comparing the overall natural sweetness of one fruit against another. The following chart* provides an interesting comparison of the naturally occurring sugars across a variety of commonly eaten fruits.
|Fruit (piece or 100 g)||Total Sugars||Glucose||Fructose||Sucrose|
*Source: Fruit and Sugar Content: The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain, Ph.D
~ More research needs to be done
Fructose is a simple sugar, also known as a monosaccharide, meaning that it contains just one sugar molecule. When you eat fruit or vegetables, the fructose within those foods is sent to the liver where it is converted into sucrose and glucose. After the glucose is absorbed it aids in all sorts of cell functions that help the body work properly. Fruit and vegetables contain much more than these naturally occurring sugars; they are nutrient dense foods containing much needed minerals, vitamins and fiber and have a place in our daily diets.
We all know that eating too much sucrose, or table sugar, in the form of cakes, pastries and cookies is bad for us and can lead to all kinds of health problems including obesity and diabetes. Eating too much fructose can do the same thing, but a well balanced diet that includes a variety of fruit and vegetables will ensure that you limit your overall intake of fructose to the recommended 25-35 grams per day. While it’s almost impossible to get too much fructose in its naturally occurring form of fruits and vegetables, where we get into trouble with fructose is when it appears in foods we least expect it to.
High Fructose Corn Syrup has been the darling of the processed and packaged food industry for decades and can be found in everything from sodas to hamburger buns. Many food companies are trying to figure out ways to remove High Fructose Corn Syrup from their products but much work is still needed. If you are not an ingredients label reader, try to become one. The next time you are in the grocery store make time for picking up products and reading labels, you’ll be surprised by how many products contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. Do yourself a favor and choose products that are made without High Fructose Corn Syrup!
So what type of sugars comprises the 7.0 grams of naturally occurring sugar in elderberry? We don’t know! As the chart above indicates, more research on elderberry is needed to determine the naturally occurring sugar content of an average elderberry. Perhaps the fact that most people don’t think of elderberry as a fruit is the reason for the lack of data here. Elderberry is not consumed like other fruits and because it is most often used as a nutritional supplement and herbal medicine, perhaps researchers don’t include it in their list of fruits to study when determining the types of sugars fruit contains. Regardless, even though we don’t know what types of sugars elderberry contains, few fruits have less naturally occurring sugar than elderberry. In my next blog post I’ll be talking about the sugar content of Norm’s Farms products, so stay tuned!
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