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Refined Sugar: Foods That Have Refined Sugar & Side Effects


Sugars are the most excellent source of energy for the body. But, all sugars aren’t that beneficial for your health. Hence, it is essential to understand the type of sugar better to consume in the diet.

This article will discuss the vital topics related to refined sugar to understand its role in the body.

Refined sugar foods

What Is Refined Sugar?

Added sugar raises[1] a lot of health concerns leading to problems of chronic diseases and fatty liver conditions.

Refined sugar is a form of sugar that is processed artificially into edible form. The refined sugars contain sucrose, a carbohydrate of glucose and fructose.

Generally, refined sugars are prepared by extracting juices from high sugar-containing plants like sugar cane, corn, sugar beets, etc.

Common refined sugar varieties used in daily life are white or table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

The table sugar is prepared from the juice extracted from sugarcane. First, the sugarcanes are washed and cut into pieces before putting them in a hot water bath.

The sugarcanes are compressed to extract juice, which is then filtered to remove impurities. Further, the juice is converted into a thick syrup that is processed into a crystal form.

Lastly, the sugar crystals undergo further processing to be available as table sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn which is milled to form cornstarch. The cornstarch converts to a syrup form due to continuous processing.

Then, to increase sugar fructose levels, workers add a few enzymes to the syrup, forming the ready-to-use high-fructose corn syrup.

What Foods Have Refined Sugar?

In daily life, people consume several food items that contain refined sugar. Moreover, some foods and beverages may include natural and refined sugar to enhance sweetness. Here is a list of some common foods with refined sugar.

  1. Flavoured Yogurt

    Generally, yogurt doesn’t contain any added sugar, but a few flavored yogurts may contain some refined sugar.

    You might have tasted sweetened yogurt, strawberry yogurt, etc., in your life. The sweet flavor of these yogurt varieties is due to the addition of refined sugar.

    Moreover, yogurt with low calorie and zero fat content surprisingly contains a high amount of sugar.

  2. Bread

    Generally, a slice of bread contains up to 2-3 grams of sugar. But, some bread varieties like honey nut bread, cinnamon raisin bread, etc., may have higher sugar content.

    Moreover, some varieties like wheat and multigrain bread may contain a few amounts of refined sugar.

    But, you may find some bread varieties with lower sugar content. You may check the nutritional content on the pack to know the refined sugar content.

  3. Granola Bars

    Do you know that one of the most favorite breakfast foods, granola bars, contains a higher amount of sugar? The granola bars are healthy and good for weight loss as they have low-fat content.

    But, these bars may contain higher amounts of refined sugar. Each granola bar may contain up to 7-8 grams of refined sugar, which is considerably higher.

  4. Sauces

    Tomatoes and other vegetables used to prepare ketchup or sauces don’t contain much natural sugar.

    But, generally, the sauces made with these veggies are sweet and delicious as the manufacturers add some refined sugar.

    These sauces have a high amount of sugar; marinara sauce may contain up to 20 grams per serving. Hence, you should look at the product description to find out the sugar concentration.

  5. Juices

    Generally, the juices made from fruits like oranges, apples, grapes, etc., contain a high amount of natural sugar. But, the manufacturers mix additional refined sugar to enhance the sweetness and overall taste of the juice.

    Moreover, some fruit juices naturally taste sour or bitter; hence, manufacturers add refined sugar to the juice to balance such a strong taste.

    As a result, if you are a juice junky, it could be beneficial if you stick to natural juices, as natural juices might also help you lose weight.

  6. Peanut Butter

    Peanut butter is a healthy and highly nutritious thing to consume. Peanut butter is the most excellent protein source and may help increase an individual’s weight.

    But, some brands choose to add refined sugars and hydrogenated oils to enhance the taste, manipulating the overall health benefits.

    On the other hand, most peanut butter brands add refined sugar in a controlled way; hence, you may intake 2-3 grams of sugar per spoon.

  7. Protein Bars

    Protein bars are one of the most fantastic snacks for bodybuilders as they may instantly boost protein levels. But, alongside proteins, the bar contains a high amount of refined sugar. Therefore, they are not a part of the high protein and low-calorie foods list.

    One protein bar may contain up to 15-20 grams of sugar, which is close to the daily sugar needs of an individual. As a result, you might want to avoid them as much as possible. Their natural alternative could be whey protein, or if you have access, you could also stick to high-protein snacks that might take care of your cravings instantly.

  8. Chocolate Milk

    Milk is one of the richest sources of calcium, protein, and other nutrients with lesser sugar content. But, chocolate milk may contain up to 12-15 grams of sugar per cup (250 ml).

    Chocolate milk is prepared with milk, cocoa, and refined sugar to make them chocolaty and sweet. Hence, the refined sugar content is higher in chocolate milk.

  9. Flavored Coffee

    Coffee tastes bitter due to the natural taste of coffee beans. But, several cafes use additional refined sugar and sweetened syrup to make the coffee taste better.

    Generally, a cup of coffee may contain up to 45-50 grams of refined sugar. Hence, you should consider less sweetened or black coffee to avoid sugar.

    As a result, if you have been drinking flavored coffee and thinking that the flavored coffee might help you lose weight, you are in for a big surprise.

  10. Sports Drinks

    You might have seen athletes drinking colorful water on the field. These colorful water or sports drinks may help keep the athletes hydrated and fueled up.

    But, the drinks contain a high amount of refined sugar compared to other energy drinks. A standard sports drink bottle may contain up to 30-35 grams of refined sugar.

Side Effects Of Refined Sugar

Refined sugars or any form of sugar aren’t good for human health. Higher consumption of sugar may lead to several health conditions as listed below:

  1. May Cause Fatty Liver Condition

    The consumption of food with higher or moderate refined content may lead to a fatty liver condition. Fructose may[2] pose harmful effects on human health.

    People consuming sugar and fructose, a sugar-like compound, may enhance fat deposition in the liver, leading to a non-alcoholic fatty liver condition.

    Hence, check on high sugar-containing food items to avoid such medical conditions.

  2. May Cause Several Heart Diseases

    Heavy sugar consumption increases the insulin level in the blood. Hence, the blood vessel swells and narrows, resulting in high blood pressure in the arteries.

    Due to high blood pressure, you may suffer from several heart conditions like heart attack, etc. Added sugars give rise[3] to coronary heart conditions because of insulin resistance.

  3. May Increase LDL Cholesterol Level

    The sugar content in the food could be a significant cause of high LDL or bad cholesterol concentration in the blood. As per this[4] data, consuming excess sugar increases triglycerides in the body.

    Moreover, high sugar levels in the blood may increase triglycerides in the bloodstream, which may obstruct blood flow.

    Hence, you may consider eating protein-rich foods to avoid sugar cravings.

  4. May Turn Into An Addiction

    You may have heard of drug and alcohol addiction, but refined sugars could be addictive too. Generally, refined sugars may release two chemicals, opioids, and dopamine, responsible for activating the brain’s pleasure center.

    Hence, activating the pleasure center may push you to have higher sugar consumption.

  5. May Increase The Risk Of Depression

    Multiple studies have shown that people consuming refined sugars regularly may increase the risk of developing depression.

    Frequent consumption of refined sugar may release[5] several brain chemicals resulting in a chemical imbalance; hence, the imbalance may lead to depression.

    Several reviews have revealed that junk food and sugary food consumers may enhance the risk of depression by 40%.

  6. May Be Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease

    Frequent consumption of a diet with higher refined sugar content may produce high blood glucose and stimulate insulin levels in the blood. Moreover, increased sugar consumption may impact insulin resistance as well.

    Hence, due to these metabolic imbalances, an individual may develop the risk[6] of Alzheimer’s Disease.

  7. May Disturb Your Appetite Control

    Excessive sugar consumption may leave you in an over-eating condition.

    Higher sugar consumption may reduce the impact of the leptin[7] hormone that signals the brain to stop eating or the feeling of fullness. Hence, you may feel like eating even after consuming a full meal.

Refined Sugar Vs Natural Sugar

Sugars are simple carbohydrates that the body uses to convert into glucose and use as an energy source. Refined sugar is just empty calories lacking nutrition.

Processed food has refined sugar with salts and added[8] fats which could harm health when consumed in excess.

But, the effectiveness and health benefits of sugars highly depend on the form of glucose you consume, i.e., either natural or refined.

As the name suggests, natural sugars occur naturally in fruits, dairy products, and some veggies. Generally, fruits and vegetables primarily contain fructose, while dairy products like milk and cheese have lactose.

Natural sources of sugar are good for health and may help improve metabolic activity. Moreover, natural sugars like lactose may take time to digest, but they will keep you full for longer.

Refined sugar or sucrose is a processed form of sugar extracted from sugarcane or sugar beets.

These refined sugar forms are easier to break inside the body; hence, they immediately boost blood sugar and insulin level.

Moreover, the quick digestion of refined sugar-rich food may enhance the hunger feeling leading to over-eating.


Almost all the packaged food items you consume contain refined sugar. Thus, It is best to avoid overusing them.

But, you might have understood that refined sugars aren’t the best choice to meet the sugar needs of the body. You may consider several natural sources of sugar to keep the body healthy and fueled up.


Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1.  James M. Rippe,* and Theodore J. Angelopoulos. Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding. Nutrients. 2016 Nov; 8(11): 697. Published online 2016 Nov 4. doi: 10.3390/nu8110697
  2. Metin Basaranoglu,corresponding author1 Gokcen Basaranoglu, and Elisabetta Bugianesi. Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction. Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr. 2015 Apr; 4(2): 109–116. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2304-3881.2014.11.05
  3. James J DiNicolantonio and James H OKeefe. Added sugars drive coronary heart disease via insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia: a new paradigm. Open Heart. 2017; 4(2): e000729. Published online 2017 Nov 29. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000729
  4. Triglycerides available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186
  5. Anika Knüppel,corresponding author Martin J. Shipley, Clare H. Llewellyn, et al. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 6287. Published online 2017 Jul 27. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7
  6. Longjian Liu   , Stella L Volpe  , Jennifer A Ross  , et al. Dietary sugar intake and risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older women. utr Neurosci. 2021 Jul 30;1-12. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2021.1959099.
  7. Joseph R. Vasselli. The Role of Dietary Components in Leptin Resistance1,2. Adv Nutr. 2012 Sep; 3(5): 736–738. Published online 2012 Sep 6. doi: 10.3945/an.112.002659
  8. William B. Farquhar, PhD, David G. Edwards, PhD, Claudine T. Jurkovitz, et al. Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Mar 17; 65(10): 1042–1050. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2014.12.039

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