Carbohydrates are sugars. They represent a source of energy that is quickly available to the body, for example during physical effort. There are different sorts of carbohydrates, defined by their more or less complex structures.
Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, contain only one elementary molecule. We distinguish between:
- Glucose, which is not commonly found in its free state in foods, but is part of many other sugars;
- Fructose, which is present in honey and fruits, and is part of the composition of sucrose;
- Galactose, which is part of the composition of lactose (sugar found in milk), together with glucose;
- Maltose, which is present in food grains.
These sugars are frequently associated with one another to form other carbohydrates.
The most common compound sugars are:
- Sucrose, which is ordinary sugar. It is made up of a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule. It is the most common sugar in nature; it is found in fruits and vegetables, and can be obtained from beets and sugar cane.
- Lactose, which is the sugar found in milk and dairy products.
The sweetening properties of each sugar are different: sucrose is rated at 100 (used as a reference because it is ordinary sugar), fructose is rated at 170, and glucose at 50.
At last, some sugars, called polysaccharides, are made up of over 10 elementary carbohydrate molecules (generally several thousand). The main ones are:
- Starch, which is present in foods of plant origin, essentially in food grains, pulses, tuber (potatoes) and certain fruits (bananas or chestnuts);
- Glycogen, of animal origin, which is much less widespread and provides almost nothing.
However, it can be produced by the body and stored in the liver and muscles. Therefore, our energy supplies are kept in the form of glycogen.
Cellulose is present in plants and makes up the structure of plant fiber, which facilitates digestion, but is almost unabsorbed by the body.
The Role of Sugars
The more complex carbohydrates are progressively absorbed by the intestine. First they must decompose into elementary carbohydrate molecules (glucose, fructose and galactose). However, monosaccharides, or simple sugars, are immediately absorbed. These sugars have the disadvantage of stimulating the glycaemia-regulating mechanisms too quickly (insulin secretion during a meal) and of not satisfying hunger long enough. A balanced diet should include the two sugar types.
Unfortunately, the current trend is to substitute complex sugars with simple sugars (lower consumption of pulses and starches in favour of fresh fruit, for example).
Finally, fructose is absorbed quickly like other simple sugars, but half of it is oxidized and half of it is stored as glycogen. Its consumption does not trigger insulin secretion, unlike the other simple sugars, and it could be of value to diabetics.
For people who are physically active or want to maintain their weight, a range of 100-150 grams per day may be optimal. For people who have metabolic problems, going under 50 grams per day is a good idea.
Something else to consider with carbohydrates, when it comes to healthy eating is the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load. Glycemic Index of a specific food or meal is determined primarily determined by the nature of the carbohydrates consumes and by other factors that affect the digestion of that particular meal (primarily the fat and the protein content of the same meal).
The Glycemic Load is defined as the weighted average glycemic index of an individual food multiplied by the percentage of dietary energy (grams of carbohydrates or calories) contained. A simple calculation allows you to arrive at the glycemic load of any food. For example, cooked carrots have a medium glycemic index of 49 while its glycemic load is 2.4 (because there are few calories in carrots). This means that eating carrots will not have a strong tendency to spike your blood sugar. However, potatoes have both a high glycemic index and a high glycemic load, which will significantly raise the blood sugar and stimulate a heightened insulin response.
The next important consideration is the quality of nutrients contained in a particular carbohydrate. In a world of highly processed foods, the quality of nutrients a carbohydrate contains varies tremendously. For example, all of our fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables are classified as carbohydrates. Whole foods contain the vital vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals our bodies need to survive. These cannot be logically or safely “exchanged” for other carbohydrates with little or no nutritional value as some diet programs allow. When you are trying to determine which carbohydrate is good is the bad, you need to look at the glycemic index, the glycemic load, and the quality of nutrients contained within a particular carbohydrate.
The science behind this is a whole new blog to create… lol… however I have attached to this blog, 3 lists of desirable, moderately desirable and least desirable carbohydrates with the glycemic index and load, for your information.
Certain foods such as cheese, meat, fish and eggs contain almost no carbohydrates.
The word “sugar” should refer to the natural sugar found in fruits or the natural sugar which is extracted by the body from carbohydrates.
Apart from this, the word “sugar” only refers to a result obtained from various chemical operations.
For certain nutritionists, beet sugar, like most isolated elements, is an imbalanced product, unfit for sustaining life, devoid of the protective elements or of the ferments necessary for its proper use by the body.
Others say that these sweeteners relate to and influence three areas of the human life force: honey would supposedly have a stimulating action on the nervous system, cane sugar would influence the rhythmic activity, and beet sugar is said to influence the metabolism.
Refined sugar is manufactured by crushing beets or sugarcane in order to obtain the juice, which contains 20% sugar and 1 to 3% impurities where the mineral salts are found. This juice is processed with lime, then heated, mixed and spun to make white sugar. What remains is processed to make brown sugar.
Refined sugars are responsible for exhausting vitamin reserves in the body and are the cause of nervousness, dental cavities and even cancer. They are also, in all likelihood, the cause of acne, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. and other more serious health problems.