CARBOHYDRATES

CARBOHYDRATES

 

A carbohydrate is a compound that contains carbon and water molecules. Actually, individual sugar molecules joined together make up carbohydrates. The simplest of sugar molecules are glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), and galactose (a milk sugar). These are known as monosaccharides, as they each contain one sugar molecule. Within the category of carbohydrates are simple and complex carbohydrates. Examples of sim- ple carbohydrates include table sugar, honey, and fruit sugars.

As you read in the description of the standard American diet, most people consume far too many simple carbohydrates. Although the body ultimately breaks carbohydrates down into glucose (the simplest of sugars), most simple carbohydrates, such as candy, potato chips, soda, and refined flours (white breads, crackers, chips, cookies, muffins), have little to no fiber, vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients. These carbohydrates are often called empty calories. When consumed in excess, especially on an empty stomach, they lead to immune system suppression, mood swings, attention problems, and weight gain (fat deposition). Many of these effects are due in large part to the spike in blood sugar that results after they are eaten. As a result, the hormone insulin is released to help transport blood sugar to the cells. As a by- product of this, the pancreas (which produces insulin) is overtaxed, immune cells are weakened, and the body stores fat. Too high a percentage of simple carbohydrates in the diet predisposes people to develop obesity, diabetes, cavities, and heart disease. The question then arises: What about fruits, because most of them contain simple carbohydrates? Research has shown that many types of fruits are good to eat, when consumed in moderation. As it turns out, fruits contain a great deal of fructose. This simple sugar does not cause a rapid rise in glucose and insulin levels because fruc- tose must first be converted into glucose by the liver, to be available for the body to use. Fructose has a much more stable effect on blood-sugar levels than do other common sugars, such as sucrose, maltose (found in rice syrup and malt), dextrose, and honey. Certain fruits, such as apples, contain fiber that helps to normalize blood- sugar levels.

 

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