Sugar: Part I

What is Sugar?

  • Simple carbohydrates are generally referred to as sugars.  These are monosaccharides (single sugar molecule) and disaccharides (two sugar molecules bound together)
  • The three Monosaccharides are: fructose, galactose & glucose.
  • Fructose is the sweetest (found in fruits & veggies), also found in high fructose corn syrup.
  • Galactose never occurs alone (always paired with glucose to make lactose).
  • Glucose is the most abundant sugar in our diet; and is the primary source of energy.
  • The three Disaccharides are: lactose, maltose & sucrose.
  • Lactose is made of one glucose molecule and one galactose molecule; referred to as milk sugar.
  • Maltose is made of two glucose molecules.  Maltose molecules join together in food to form starch.
  • Sucrose is made of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule.  Found in sugarcane, sugar beets, and honey.

Natural Occurring vs Added Sugar

  • Some sugar is found in foods naturally: fruit (fructose) & milk (lactose).
  • Natural sugar is good for you since these foods also contain other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
  • Added sugars are in the form of sugar or syrup and are added to a food during the processing or preparation stage.
  • Food labels do not decipher between natural sugars and added sugars – so it’s your job as a consumer to read ingredients and compare labels between brands.  Read on for all the different types of sugar.
  • Chemically, added sugars and natural sugars are very similar.

What product do Americans consume the most added sugar from?

  • Sweetened Soft Drinks
  • Americans drink an average of 40 gallons per person per year
  • 12 oz soda = 38.5 g sugar = almost 10 tsp
  • 40 gallons soda = 16,420 g sugar = ~267 cups of sugar each year!

What is an Acceptable amount of Sugar in your diet?

  • I recommend added sugars be no more than 10% of total energy intake. If you consume 2,000 calories, that would be 200 calories or 50 grams or 13 tsp at most!

What are common types of added sugars?

  • Brown Sugar: Highly refined sweetener made of 99% sucrose.  Made by adding molasses or burnt table sugar for color and flavor to white table sugar.
  • Concentrated fruit juice sweetener: Made with concentrated fruit juice, often pear juice.
  • Confectioner’s sugar: Highly refined sweetener, made by finely grinding white sugar with cornstarch (to reduce clumping).  Also called powder sugar.
  • Corn sweeteners: Used to describe any sugar made with cornstarch.
  • Corn syrup: The addition of water to cornstarch in the process of partial hydrolysis to make syrup.
  • Dextrose: Glucose
  • Fructose: Fruit sugar.  Natural monosaccharide that is found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Glucose: Most abundant monosaccharide, primary source of energy.
  • Granulated sugar: White sugar or table sugar
  • High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Corn syrup that was altered by converting some of the sucrose to fructose, making it sweeter than sucrose and normal corn syrup.  HFCS contains 42-55% fructose.
  • Honey: Sweetener combined of glucose and fructose, made by bees.
  • Invert sugar: A very smooth sugar created from heating sucrose with a small amount of acid.  This process breaks down the components and reduces the size of the crystals.
  • Lactose: A disaccharide made from the monosaccharides glucose and galactose.
  • Levulose: Fructose, or fruit sugar.
  • Maltose: A disaccharide made from the 2 molecules of the glucose.
  • Mannitol: A sugar alcohol.
  • Maple sugar: The sugar produced from boiling maple syrup.
  • Molasses: Thick brown syrup made of sucrose.  It separates out during the processing of raw sugar and is considered the least refined source of sucrose.
  • Natural sweeteners: A general term used to describe: sucrose, honey and raw sugar.
  • Raw sugar: The result of processing sugar beets or sugarcane, containing ~96-98% sucrose.  Include: demerara, muscovado, and turbinado.    Real raw sugar is not stable in storage, and must be purified to be edible.
  • Sorbitol: A sugar alcohol.
  • Turbinado sugar: Purified raw sugar that is safe for human consumption.  Sold as “sugar in the raw” in the U.S.
  • White sugar: Sucrose, or table sugar.
  • Xylitol: A sugar alcohol.

Bottom Line:

  • All sugars (not including sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners) are broken down in the small intestine and eventually converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Some studies have shown that the different types of sugars have different effects on blood sugar levels.
  • Overall, you should limit your consumption of ALL added sugars.  And if you do consume some, pair it with protein and fiber to prevent spikes in your blood sugar levels.
  • People with diabetes should seek help from an RD for proper meal planning.

More to Come:

  • Part II: Artificial Sweeteners & Sugar Alcohols
  • Part III: Health Problems Associated with Simple Sugars
  • Part IV: Ways to Reduce your Sugar Intake

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the post. I learned some things I didn’t know.

  2. This was very interesting. I’m looking forward to the next two posts as well.

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