Vegan diets are notoriously carb-heavy.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll also eat a lot of sugar, but it can.
It’s a common question to wonder if you’re eating an unhealthy amount of sugar. I’ll try to clear this up in this short post.
Fruit vs. Processed: The Source Matters
The biggest thing to realize here is that sugar is sugar.
Processed sugar is “bad,” while sugar from fruit might even be “good.” Your body processed them at different rates, and this affects hormone levels and overall health.
Unfortunately, there’s processed sugar hiding in a lot of vegan foods. Here’s a list of the main ones I could think of:
- Granola bars
- Condiments like Ketchup
- Baked goods (even most breads)
- Non-dairy milk
- Canned baked beans
- Vegan protein powders or bars
Compare that to natural sugar, which essentially just comes in fruit (and subsequently fruit juice).
Can You Eat Too Much Fruit?
Before we get to dealing with processed sugar, this is a common question about fruits.
While you want to eat a mixture of fruit and other foods, there’s not really an upper limit in how much fruit you eat. The sugar is packaged with fiber (among other things), which is part of why sugar from fruit digests differently from refined sugar.
Additionally, fruits are mainly fructose (one of the main types of sugar), which refined sugar is mainly glucose, which is the type of sugar that affects hormones like insulin.
Dr. Greger sums up an interesting study on the topic of if you can eat too much fruit:
Seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet, presumably about 200 g/d—eight cans of soda worth, the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit actually) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after three to six months.
I doubt you’re eating that much fruit, so it’s probably not a concern. And even if you eat more than that somehow, it’s still probably not that big of a deal.
I would say the exception to this rule are dried fruits like dates and raisins. I went through a weird phase before I went vegan where I ate copious amounts of dates and my teeth did not appreciate it.
The Only Solution For Eating Less Processed Sugar
So sugar from fruit is not an issue.
But refined sugar from the sources in the list above can be. You want to minimize your intake of those sugars as much as possible.
The only way you can do that is to cook as much as you can yourself. That’s not the most fun answer, but it’s the only option besides hiring a personal chef.
It’s ridiculous that almost all packaged foods have sugar in them (even tomato sauce). If you eat a lot of pre-made food, the sugar is going to add up fast.
If you’re truly interested in being healthier, you are going to have to cook for yourself, so that you control all the ingredients. That way, even when you need to add something sweet to food like oatmeal, you can use fruit instead of refined sugar.