Sugar!Posted: January 3, 2012
From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.
Sugar– it’s in nearly everything we eat. Bread and pasta, fruits and veggies, packaged fruit and yogurt snacks, and desserts; sugar can be found in a variety of food under different forms, although many people tend to think of sugar as something that’s only found in brightly colored breakfast cereal, soda pop, and super-sweet desserts.
Sugar, a term often loosely used, can be used generally to signify carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a type of nutriment (one of the six: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals) who’s primary role is to provide easy-to-use energy for the body (proteins and fats are two nutriments that also provide energy, but in forms that require the body to process them more elaborately before using them, producing metabolic waste substances).
Carbohydrates can be sorted into two categories: complex and simple carbohydrates. A glance at a food product’s nutrition label can reveal which types of carbohydrates it contains.
Non digestible complex carbohydrates, or more specifically, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber, are different from other carbohydrates, notably because they cannot be digested and therefore don’t provide the body with any energy. Instead, they benefit the body by keeping the digestive tract healthy and by, if eaten in adequate quantity, reducing the risk of colon cancer and helping reduce cholesterol levels.
Digestible complex carbohydrates provide a source of continuous, stable energy for the body because they take time to be digested and broken down, making them a nutritiously sound calorie-investment.
Simple carbohydrates are the type that we tend to think of when we think of foods that contain sugar. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body and give a jolt of quick energy that isn’t maintained for very long, making them a less ideal source of energy for the body. That being said, foods that contain simple carbohydrates need not be strictly avoided. Fruit tends to contain simple carbohydrates rather than complex carbohydrates, but isn’t very energy dense and provides other important nutriments (water, vitamins, minerals), including fiber, which helps slow the speed of digestion of fruit down, reducing the ”jolt” effect.
For more information, interested readers may want to visit the following websites:
http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Fact-Sheet-Pages%28HTML%29/Weight-Loss-and-Control/What-is-the-Glycemic-Index.aspx (provides information about the Glycemic Index, which measures the effect different carbohydrate-rich foods have on blood sugar levels).
Originally published in the Times & Transcript on April 16th, 2011.