Sugar Explained, Part 2: What Are The Different Types Of Sugar? Name That Sugar.
- Sugar is considered a carbohydrate.
- All sugars are broken down into a monosaccharide, then into glucose.
Thus, we can say: all carbohydrates are broken down to glucose.
Carbohydrates are the fuel for our bodies. Glucose is the type of sugar found in our blood.
A future post will further address how glucose is converted in the body, but for now let’s just discuss the types of sugars.
Most people don’t talk about sugar in terms of monosaccharides or disaccharides. Most commonly you will hear the terms: fructose, sucrose, and high fructose corn syrup.
What is the difference between sucrose and fructose?
What is sucrose?
Sucrose is commonly known as sugar. Sucrose is a type of sugar (two monosaccharides) that is made up of glucose (50%) and fructose (50%), with a weak bond that is easily digested.
Fruit is comprised of naturally occurring fructose, hence the name.
Fructose is a monosaccharide that is found naturally in fruits, vegetables and honey.
So, what is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)? Let’s break the name down:
High Fructose: more fructose than glucose (ratio: 55-45, but unbound)
Corn: the sugar (fructose and glucose) is derived from corn
Syrup: well, that is the process of making it a liquid
Here’s the thing: as far as your body is concerned, all sugars are converted to glucose before your body absorbs it. Therefore, if you eat something made from sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, your body absorbs sugar as glucose.
Wait, so I am advocating or saying there are no differences between the two?
Nope. Not at all. Just pointing out a fact that often confuses people. For those people who blindly say- HFCS is bad or HFCS is good, I wonder if they really know why? I think the most logical question should be: good/ bad in relation to what?
My first thought is why does HFCS exist? Well, Since to the government subsidizes corn, it is actually cheaper to use HFCS than sucrose to make products. Of course! And some would argue that since HFCS breaks down to glucose anyway, what is the harm?
Well, what are the cons of HFCS?
- HFCS contains more fructose than glucose? So what? Well. Fructose makes food taste sweeter. Therefore, people, especially children, get used to foods that are very sweet or sugary tasting and it dulls their appetite for foods that are more nutritious but don’t taste sweet.
- Although fructose itself is not a synthetic form of sugar, HFCS is processed because it involves removing the sugar from the corn stalk and a chemical process to make HFCS takes place.
- So, yes, the corn is from nature, but the process to make HFCS is not naturally occurring. Hence some argue that the biochemical structure is then different.
- The ratio in HFCS is not always the same. Some products contain up to 90% fructose and 10% glucose (hello sweetness)
- And more recently, the issue of Genetically Modified (GMO) Corn in the marketplace.
- and if not organic product, the end product has been produced with synthetic pesticides and herbicides
“If you can’t convince them, confuse them” ~ Harry Truman.
As you can see, the corn and packaged food industries have a valid point: sugar is sugar (because your body breaks sugar down into simplest form) but as you can see, it isn’t as innocuous as that.
So, who do you believe? The corn industry? The FDA? Yourself?
And maybe you still don’t find HFCS that big of deal, because it has been deemed “safe” (by the corn industry). I am not here to judge anyone based on what they eat, but rather give you more information on a hot topic. The intention is to help others better understand the foods we put into our mouths.
For me, the premise of clean eating means:
- Reducing foods that have (unnecessary and no nutritional value) additives
- Limiting the amount of foods you eat with “added” sugar and fat
- Eating things that have not been processed, or minimally processed
I am not going to forbid my kid chocolate or sweets, BUT, there are definitely versions and/or brands that have better INGREDIENTS than others.
Stay tuned for more on what kinds of sugar you can buy.