Sugar is a carbohydrate. A carbohydrate is the starchy, fuel, or energy reserve in a plant that is used to power the seed as it germinates. Think of the yolk of an egg. This is what the chick eats when it is growing in the egg. The starch, or carbohydrate, of a seed, fruit or nut is used when a seed sprouts to give it enough energy to sink roots and find the sun.
Carbohydrates can be classified as Simple or Complex.
The size and complexity of the molecular chain of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen determine the type of carbohydrate, or saccharide.
Are generally classified as: oligosaccharide and polysaccharide – are complex or starch.
- Oligosaccharides: (not considered a starch, but still complex) maltodextrin.
- Polysaccharides: Starch – amylose and amylopectin are digestible.
- Fiber: Non-starchy polysaccharides are also called “fiber” and are not digestible. These break down into soluble and insoluble. The important thing to know about fiber is both kinds are very important to good health and a person should ingest 15 grams for every 1,000 Calories they ingest.
- Monosaccharides: glucose, galactose, & fructose
- Disaccharides: sucrose, lactose, & maltose
Carbohydrates are found in all plants – the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruit. Carbohydrates are not prevalent in animal products, except milk and only trace amounts in eggs. There are no carbs of any kind found naturally in any meat.
There are several types of natural sugars.
Their difference is dependent on their molecular structure and how they are metabolized.
- Glucose: all forms of sugar break down into glucose, eventually. This is the primary energy source of the body and the only one for the brain – however, we rarely ingest it by itself. It is either attached to another form of sugar, or other sugars are metabolized in the body to create glucose.
- Fructose: This sugar is found alone or with others. For Ex: Fructose is readily found in fruit. This is the main reason why fruit is sweet. Fructose has a sweeter taste than any other form of sugar. In fact, if you put pure glucose in your mouth, it would only taste moderately sweet.
Glucose and Fructose are, by far, the most common sugars. They are found together in fruit, honey, table sugar (brown, powders, etc.) and HFCS.
- Sucrose: is standard, white, table sugar. It is made up of nearly equal parts of glucose and fructose. (icing sugar, brown sugar, sugar in the raw, simple syrup, corn syrup, etc).
- Galactose: is also not found by itself. It joins with other simple carbs. For Ex. galactose and glucose together are known as lactose, the sugar found in milk.
- Lactose: as previously mentioned is made up of galactose and glucose.
- Maltose: also called “malt sugar” is naturally found in grains and is made up of two glucose molecules.
What is the Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbs and Why Do I Care?
Simple carbohydrates, most commonly called “sugars”, taste sweet and absorb very quickly into the blood stream. More on that later. This relates to why you care.
Complex carbohydrates break down into simple carbs, eventually. Some faster than others. Once again, I’ll explain later why this matters. But this is the crux of the biscuit.
How The Body Responds to Sugar
- Digestion. When a carbohydrate enters our body, an enzyme in our saliva begins to break it down to a simpler carbohydrate. You can demonstrate this for yourself by putting a plain complex carb in your mouth such as a Saltine cracker or plain oatmeal. Chew, chew, chew, but don’t swallow. Notice how the flavor changes as you chew. It will become a little sweet. That is the amylase breaking down those complex chains of carbohydrates into a simpler form.
- This breakdown is temporarily halted as the carbohydrates pass through the stomach. However, breakdown, or digestion resumes when it reaches the small intestines.
- Absorption. As the sugars are absorbed through the gut wall, fructose will end up in the liver to be metabolized. All sugars, including fructose, will break down to glucose and be metabolized by all the rest of the cells, especially the brain – which only feeds on glucose.
- Insulin. As blood glucose levels rise, insulin is released. The higher the blood sugar rises, the more insulin is released. Insulin’s job is to keep the glucose level from rising too high in the blood stream and damaging organs and vessels. Insulin is known as the “storage hormone”. It stores glucose.
- Fat storage. When glucose storage is full, the excess will be stored as fat. This is insulin’s job. Insulin also prevents fat from being broken down into glucose and releasing in the blood stream. This makes sense for the body as there is already too much glucose in the blood. But, this is why it is hard to burn body fat when you eat too much carbohydrates.
- Sugar is addictive. The reward center of the brain responds to sugar the same way it does to nicotine, alcohol, heroin and cocaine.
- Obesity – rates have increased about 40% in 20 years. They have been increasing since the 70s.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
This is caused by excessive amounts of fructose. Fructose, as I mentioned a little bit ago, is only metabolized in the liver. At this point it will either turn into fat or glucose. If you the body’s glucose level is adequate, then fat is formed. This fat will either stay in the liver or be released into the blood stream. This is one reason why a person would have high tri-glycerides in their blood.
The fat in the liver restricts the normal function of the liver. The more there is, the worse it is.
The French learned this a long time ago and developed the practice of force feeding carbohydrates to geese and ducks. This gives geese a very fatty liver which is then used to make foie gras.
- Type II Diabetes. As I just explained, when sugar is ingested, insulin is released and the cells have to react to this insulin. Think of insulin as a key that opens the door on a cell. When the door is opened, the glucose goes in. If their key hole is broken and the key won’t fit, then the glucose does not go in and the blood sugar level builds up.
How To Mitigate The Insulin Response
- When you ingest sugar, keep the quantity as little as possible. The devil is in the dosage. The more, the worse. The less you ingest the better it is for your health – or the least harmful.
- If you must eat sugar, it is best to do so in a way that will slow its absorption rate into the blood stream. Always ingest sugar with protein and fats. This will help slow the absorption. It is preferable that you eat the fat and protein shortly before the sugar – not after.
- Spreading out the time it takes to eat your sugar is also a way to slow the absorption. For example, if you have a box of chocolates, it is much healthier to eat them over the course of a day (or several) than to eat them in an hour.
- Ingest your sugar in a natural state, such as in whole fruit and whole milk. If you are going to eat a sweet, man-made food like cookies, ice cream, etc., remember the above advice (fat, protein, limit the dose, extend the time.)
How to Avoid Sugar
- This is very difficult. Sugar is everywhere. People will offer you sweets with good intentions and it is in nearly all processed foods, sauces and condiments.
- Take a look at this podcast I recorded with my wife, Sharma, about how to deal with sugar pushers: Ep 30 – The Sugar Battle
- Read ingredients – not simply the Nutrition Facts label. The ingredient label will state any sugar added. Though, sugar goes by many names in the food industry, you can read all the names sugar goes by on my show notes page.
- Don’t eat sweets – they make you want more. The less you eat, the less you want. This goes for foods and drinks that are artificially sweetened. They do not train your palette to be satisfied without the sweet taste.
- I’m currently creating a program that will guide you away from the sugar life. Keep an eye out for it. It’s in beta testing now and I will release it when it’s ready.
- I am working on two more podcasts about sugar. I also have plans to interview experts in the field. This is my soap box. I’ve seen too many lives ruined or turned miserable because of sugar. Don’t let it ruin yours.
Get off Sugar
Break Your The Habit Now
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You Might Also Like
- Ep 50 – Nutrition: The Whole Picture
- Ep 12 – Nutriton Educator, Chocolate Taster, Entrepreneur, Adventurer: Caralyn Dea
- Ep 10 – Mary Vance: Holistic Nutrition Consultant
- How Sugar is Made – video
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