Sugar

Sugar? Starch? Carb? What’s The Difference!

Last week we talked about forms of sugar (words ending -ose) and how they are different or alike. In many cases the sugars broke down to, in at least part, glucose. Glucose is used by your muscles to perform work. Sugars are SIMPLE carbohydrates. COMPLEX carbohydrates are what we call “starches”.

Why Do I CARE??

GLYCOGEN! Glycogen is why you care.

Glycogen is one of TWO forms of energy storage in the body:

1. Glycogen stored in muscle and the liver.

2. Triglycerides (i.e. FAT) stored in adipose tissue.

So, let’s get to the point…Your body can store 1-day’s worth of glycogen. The trick is, your body will use your “one day” stores of glycogen BEFORE relying on the stored energy in your fat cells. Meaning, you MUST exercise off your daily stores before you can mobilize the energy stored in the fat cells. Keep your energy/food intake in check!

Why Complex Carbohydrates Matter

All forms of sugar, and starch, break down into glucose. Starch is a COMPLEX CARB (i.e. 3-10 sugars linked in a long COMPLEX chain) vs sugar being a SIMPLE CARB.

Starch/complex carbs break down slower than simple carbs/sugar. Since complex carbs break down slower, we stay “full” longer. Complex carb examples include peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Stick with complex carbs in your diet vs simple carbs for overall health!

Starch come in the forms of digestible and resistant starch. Digestible starch is quickly turned into fat if we don’t use it right away. Resistant starch doesn’t get digested in the small intestine like digestible starch, instead many types ferment in the large intestine and act like fiber! Resistant starches are not broken down into glucose in the stomach, so they have a lower calorie content, also improve insulin sensitivity/lower our blood sugar levels and keep us full longer (thanks to the slow digestion). Although there are various types of resistant starch, some examples are grains, seeds, legumes, potatoes and unrefined rice.

WAIT: White rice is “refined”, which means it’s been processed, and the fiber has been broken down making it a SIMPLE carb. Brown rice however is a whole grain – fiber intact – so it is a complex carb. Purchase whole grain rice!

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs??

Why are the terms “good carbs” and “bad carbs” floating out there? GOOD carbs can be considered those that not only contain energy/glucose (i.e. refined sugar) but also vitamins and minerals (i.e. vegetables – more bang for your your calorie-buck).

EXERCISE improves how our body moves sugar/glucose into our muscles, eventually causing you to require much less insulin than someone who is physically inactive.

Sugar: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s not hard to find SUGAR. It’s in a slew of food and drink products and most often can be found in packaged foods with ingredients ending in the letters -ose like glucose, maltose, dextrose, lactose, fructose, sucrose; it’s all sugar.

Is one better than the other? In the end, all sugars have 4 calories per gram. The differences comes down to any notable nutrients/antioxidants and HOW they affect the body/glycemic load. This week we’re looking a little deeper at what makes each type of sugar different.

Sucrose

Common table sugar (as pictured above). Sucrose contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. We’ll break each of these down further later on. Sucrose tastes sweeter than glucose but not as sweet as fructose.

Glucose

Glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet” and contains 1 glucose molecule. Glucose syrup is typically made from breaking down the starch in corn or wheat. Glucose syrup isn’t overly sweet and thus is typically used along with other sweeteners and helps extend the shelf life of products like ice cream [from crystalizing]. Glucose can be metabolized throughout our body, unlike fructose that can only be metabolized by the liver.

Fructose

Although FRUIT is high in fructose, it’s difficult to get excessive amounts from fruit, plus fruit is also very high in FIBER which is nature’s way of balancing it out. Eat fruit, skip the fruit juice (which takes out the fiber)!

If you are a label-reader then you surely have seen “High Fructose Corn Syrup” as a common ingredient that seems to pervade nearly every product on the shelf from ketchup to cookies to cereal. This is concerning because not only is a high intake of fructose bad for your waistline, but it can increase your risk of all sorts of diseases from heart disease to diabetes and even some types of cancer. Check out this link below for a DIY tutorial and you can see first-hand the process involved!
http://www.diyhfcs.mayaweinstein.com/

Maltose

Maltose is made of 2 glucose molecules. Maltose can be found in starchy grains, vegetables, and some fruit. When grains are sprouted in water and then dried, the enzymes in the grains release maltose. You can find it in brewing stores since it is an important part of brewing beer and whiskey. Maltose can also be sold as crystals or syrup, for baking or sweetener.

“Malted” cereals use malted grains to create the natural sweetness. The calories in maltose is equivalent to other sugars, but the potential benefit of maltose over other sugars is that it does not contain any fructose, which can be more harmful in large quantities.

Check out this video to see how malt syrup can be made!

Brown Rice Syrup

Similar to maltose, this is made by soaking, fermenting, and boiling down rice. Brown rice syrup contains 45% maltose (2 glucose molecules), 3% glucose (1 glucose molecule), and 52% maltotriose (3 glucose molecules). This actually puts the glycemic index HIGHER than table sugar. ALSO, arsenic is a toxic chemical known to be found in rice. Boiling rice down into a syrup compounds the amount of potential arsenic. Even though scientific research is limited, choosing fewer items with brown rice syrup may be in your best interest.

Molasses

This syrup is boiled down from refined raw cane sugar or sugar beet juice. The crystals from the boiling process are removed, leaving molasses.

FYI: Blackstrap molasses is when the syrup has been boiled a THIRD time. Each boiling of a sugar produces a different type of molasses. Molasses may be seen as slightly better than “table sugar” since it does contains some nutrients and antioxidants, but essentially…sugar is sugar.

Well alright, there was a lot more “Bad” and “Ugly” than there was good, but at least now you are equipped with knowledge of these different types of sugars and can prepare yourself to read those labels and make more educated decisions!

If Not Sugar, Then What??

Last week we talked about some of the harmful effects of added sugar. BUT, if you are going to have sugar, which kind is the right choice? This week we’ll look at honey, coconut sugar, brown sugar, raw vs white sugar, and even stevia. We have to realize there isn’t a simple answer when it comes to added sugars/sweeteners. Added sugars is where the clear majority of health issues lie. Watch your labels and start playing sugar detective to know what you are eating!

Honey

Honey contains a few more calories than table sugar but unlike stevia or table sugar, it contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making honey more like a food than a sugar. Unfortunately, most non-raw honey has been filtered, heated/pasteurized and processed thereby negating many of the health benefits in an attempt to prevent crystallization once on a store shelf.
(Caution: If you are allergic to bees, raw honey could potentially cause reactions!)

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar/coconut palm sugar (not to be confused with palm sugar) is made from the sap of coconut trees and is less processed because the sap is extracted and then placed in heat to dry. It has a couple minerals and antioxidants and a lower glycemic index than table sugar thanks to inulin (a type of fiber). Coconut sugar contains the same number of calories as table sugar, but the amount of nutrients is negligible unless large quantities are consumed so it should really not be consumed for its “nutrition” – it is still ultimately added sugar.

Raw Cane Sugar

Raw cane sugar (also called turbinado sugar) is extracted from the sugarcane plant and not refined. Although in large amounts, no sugar is “good”, raw sugar would be a better alternative than white table sugar since it retains some minerals. Raw sugar includes unrefined cane juice or powder (Sucanat and Rapadura) and date sugar.

Beware: White sugar can be labelled in disguise as refined or dried cane juice and refined cane sugar!

Stevia

While all of our article has been designated to explaining different types of sugar, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a natural sweetener that appears to be in good standing. Stevia is a sugar-free and calorie-free South African herb made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has a glycemic index of zero so it doesn’t raise blood sugar. It appears stevia COULD be your best choice for a sweetener without the additional calories of local honey, etc BUT be careful of overly processed stevia products as in general the word “processed” often means “processed with chemicals”.

Also, be aware of overuse as it can cause you to develop more of a taste for sweets. According to Livestrong.com “crude stevia extracts and whole-leaf stevia are not approved, the Mayo Clinic notes, because there are concerns about their effects on the kidneys, cardiovascular system and blood glucose levels.”

In summary, granulated white sugar/table sugar is the most chemically processed and refined of sugars. Brown sugar is just white sugar with added molasses, thus containing even more calories and sweetness. Choosing artificial sweeteners vs a “better” sugar is a choice you have to make based on the information available to you. There is no simple answer it seems. Our advice? Watch your labels, know your sugars, and choose what is best for you while exercising moderation!

The Devil in the Details…Sugar!

Sugar inside the body – blood sugar – is a sticky substance that coats the red blood cells. If left in the bloodstream (instead of being burned as energy) the particles will start to stick to the cells, interfering with blood circulation and oxygen exchange! Research has even shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to sugar. Be careful of added sugars in your diet, especially if you feel an illness coming on!

One thing to think about here is the difference between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates come from vegetables and whole grain sources and break down more slowly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream more steadily instead of creating a spike in blood sugar. Read more about glycemic index here at nih.gov

WARNING: Sugars Hiding On The Label!

Did you know there are 56 different names for sugar?? Watch your labels and look for sneaky sugar words like dextrose, sucrose, sorbitol, rice syrup, and so many more! Read the full list here!

You also have to be aware of “healthy” sounding sugars like Agave. Agave is made by treating agave plant sugars with heat and enzymes which leads to a highly refined end product still heavily loaded with calories and still…sugar! Even raw, unfiltered, organic, locally produced honey which certainly has some positive properties and benefits is still ultimately sugar – so stay sharp if fat loss is your goal!

Added Sugars can lead to Excess Weight. Why? Sugar in the blood that goes unused completely ends up being stored as fat. Too much fat in the body can lead to obesity, and obesity is known to trigger diabetes and heart disease, among other common diseases.

Diabetes is not directly caused by too much added sugar but excess weight raises the risk for diabetes. Once a person has diabetes, added sugar can make it worse since your body becomes less efficient at regulating blood sugar (glucose) due to spikes and drops in insulin. Worse yet due to the disrupted blood circulation, diabetes can cause high blood pressure and ultimately heart attack, stroke, eye conditions, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

When we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens, some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs!

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and other white flour products tend to be very high in sugar and will cause an inflammation of the skin. Additionally, when we eat too much sugar, the process called glycation can occur. When this happens some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs! Skip the added sugar and age gracefully!

Watch For Too Much Sugar!!!

We get so many questions on sugar but we hate to make sweeping assumptions that one food or substance is the root of all evil!  I usually leave the nutrition talking to Tiffany, our weight loss director, however, you can’t watch the news or read a fitness or health magazine and think that sugar isn’t at least contributing to America’s Obesity epidemic!  So, let’s take a look!

CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO

To clear this up a bit let’s look at some science!  Blood Sugar is a sticky substance that coats the red blood cells. If left in the bloodstream (instead of being burned as energy) the particles will start to stick to the cells interfering with blood circulation. Naturally occurring sugars are broken down and used for energy. However too much  “added sugar” can lead to:

Suppression of your immune system: Free radicals can cause a lot of damage in healthy cells and lead to many illnesses of the body. Research has shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to sugar.

Diabetes/ High blood pressure: Due to the interfered blood circulation this causes high blood pressure (forcing the blood through the body at above normal levels of pressure). Your body will also become less efficient at regulating blood sugar (glucose) levels due to spikes and drops in insulin release. These conditions can lead to: heart attack, stroke, eye conditions, nerve damage, and kidney damage.

Excess Weight:  Sugar in the blood that is too much for the body to consume completely is stored as fat. Too much fat in the body can lead to obesity, and obesity is known to trigger diabetes and heart disease.

Wrinkled skin/aging: Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and other white flour products are high in sugar and will cause an inflammation of the skin. This in turn creates high levels of free radicals which attack the collagen that keeps the skin stay firm. Without enough of this collagen, you will start to notice wrinkles. When we eat too much sugar, the process called glaciation can occur. When this happens, some of the sugar we consume sticks to the proteins in our body, causing our body tissues to lose their elasticity. It is not just our skin that is affected, but also our internal organs. The faster that the body loses its elasticity, the faster aging occurs.

Attached is a great handout we use at Ellipse to help clear up some of the questions on sugar. (Click this link to download attachment)  I think the most important thing to watch is ADDED sugar, like in soda or juice.  Naturally occurring sugars in fruits, etc wouldn’t get such a bad wrap if we were controlling our consumption in other areas!  Let me know if you agree, or what you do to regulate the added sugars in your diet!

I’m not sure how scientific this picture is, as I saw it on Facebook, BUT—it does make you think of a FEW ways to cut back on the white stuff!

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