FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Sugar Addiction: An Opinion

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SOME CARBOHYDRATE BASICS

Carbohydrates are among the most abundant nutrients in grains, fruits and vegetables. Types of carbohydrates in these foods include starches, sugars, and fiber.  The two primary classifications are SIMPLE and COMPLEX.

STARCHES – Complex

Complex carbohydrates called starches are found as large chains of glucose and  provide 4 calories per gram.  They are found in grains and some vegetables. Our body breaks down starches into units of glucose, which is a simple carbohydrate, and releases glucose into your bloodstream to be used for energy. Your body stores excess carbohydrate as fat. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, are naturally richer in nutrients and fiber than refined grains, such as white bread and pasta. Whole grains retain the bran and germ of the grain, while refined grains have been stripped of these components. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and beets, have more starch than so-called non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli.

SUGARS – Simple

Fruits and vegetables contain simple carbohydrates, called fructose, or fruit sugar, and glucose. Fruits are higher in fructose and glucose than most vegetables that contribute to their sweetness.  Added sugars are usually refined sugars found in baked goods and soft drinks and tend to be lower in essential nutrients than fruits and vegetables. All sugars provide 4 calories per gram. Your body converts dietary fructose to glucose and uses it for energy. so in essence, all digested carbohydrates eventually end up as glucose in the body to be used for energy production.

DIETARY FIBER- Complex

Dietary fiber refers to indigestible complex carbohydrates in plant-based foods. Most fruits and vegetables are high-fiber, and whole grains are higher in fiber than refined choices.  Because you do not digest it fiber does not contribute calories to your diet. Most high-fiber foods are rich in additional essential nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin A in fruits and vegetables, potassium; niacin and B vitamins are found in whole grains.

This post is intended to support the suggestion that sugar is a fairly benign component of our diets in terms of health issues. Many nutrition groups and those working in the sugar and processed food industries claim that sugar can be part of a healthy diet if used in moderation. The problem: Moderation is fine but how is it defined since sugar and added sugars are found in many processed foods. Many of these foods are often termed “empty calorie foods” or having few nutrients compared to non-processed whole foods which can contain some “natural” sugars. The concept of sugar addiction is discounted in this side of the debate, since not all agree on the definition of “addiction” and many say that not all people become addicted to sugar if at all. For the other side of the debate, see a subsequent post: Sugar Addiction: Another Opinion. CLICK HERE.

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