The simple answer is that sugar is one type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are a whole family and sugar is the evil step brother. Just kidding! Kind of. There is no technical definition of sugar, but for the purpose of this article it will be defined as that granulated white (or brown) stuff used in baking and poured on your cereal or coffee. Food manufacturers also add sugar to beverages and foods such as soda, juice drinks, cookies, cakes, candy, etc. Sometimes this added sugar is listed under names such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup solids. The scientific name for white sugar is sucrose.
Carbohydrates are the broader category which includes all sweets, grains, fruit, milk, and even vegetables. Carbohydrates found in fruit are fructose; carbs in milk are lactose; and carbs in grain foods are glucose. When your body digests carbohydrates they break down into glucose when they enter your blood stream. All types of carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in your body. A strawberry will turn to glucose just the same as a piece of bread or a tablespoon full of sugar will turn into glucose. The difference is that the strawberry contains vitamin C, fiber, and approximately 80 calories for 1 cup. On the other hand, 1 cup of white sugar (sucrose) contains zero vitamins and fiber, and has a whopping 770 calories. Of course, most of you are not going to eat a cup of sugar, but you may drink a soda which contains 9 teaspoons of sugar.
If you ever turn a food package around and look at the label (which I hope you do!) you may notice that it shows carbohydrates, dietary fiber and sugars. Basically, the more fiber it has the healthier it is, and the less sugar it has the healthier it is. Fiber is also a carbohydrate, but it is indigestible and it moves through your body helping to lower your cholesterol and promote regularity. Fiber can also help stabilize your blood sugar.
Overall, carbohydrates provide fuel for your body and should not be avoided. There are both healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit) and unhealthy carbs (sugar), and with a bit of balance and moderation you can happily consume both types :).
Read Full Post »
Posted in Nutrition, tagged agave nectar, agave syrup, brown sugar, dietitian, healthy eating, high fructose corn syrup, Nutrition, nutritionist, sugar, sugar comparisons, white sugar on October 6, 2010|
22 Comments »
There is a lot of talk about sugar. Especially that high fructose corn syrup variety. But whats the truth? Is one better than the other? Is brown sugar nutritionally superior to white? How about sugar that comes from corn? Will it make me fat, give me diabetes, brain cancer? Believe it or not, I have been asked one version or another of all of these questions at some point in time. In fact, a lady in my grocery store tour program didn’t ask if HFCS gives you brain cancer; she insisted that it did. FYI- I have no idea when the actual correct time to use a semicolon is, if this is improper please feel free to let me know.
I’m going to cover the simple basics of four different types of sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar. I realize that there are many more sweeteners and sugar varieties out there, practically anything ending in -ose on your food label is one form of sugar or another.
White Sugar versus Brown Sugar. There is a big misconception out there that brown sugar is better for you because it is “more natural.” This is false. Brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar which has had molasses added back into it. White sugar or sucrose is made from sugar cane or beets. I’ve done a random poll of my family to determine where this myth was formed, and I just can’t get to the bottom of it. My dad believed the myth because thats what his mom told him. My mom knew it wasn’t true (she’s so smart!) but thought perhaps the myth stemmed from the fact that other brown products like whole grains and whole wheat pasta which happen to be “brown” are healthier for us.
High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS. This is by far one of the most controversial products on the market right now. HFCS is literally in everything! But is it a problem? In terms of pure nutrition, calories, and percent carbohydrates it is identical to table sugar or sucrose. Yes, it is slightly higher in fructose, but you know where we can also find fructose. In fruit! So, the real problem is that HFCS is soo cheap (because it is made from corn, and corn is subsidized by our government). Due to its cheapness it is being found in more and more foods and the prices of these foods can be driven down because corn is cheap. The increase in HFCS has mirrored the increase in obesity as is demonstrated in the graph below. But it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation and there are several other environmental and genetic factors which come into play for obesity. Agave Nectar. Last but not least is agave nectar. it can be found at specialty foodstores like Traders Joes and Whole Foods. This is a fairly new product and many of you may not have even heard of it so I’m going to keep it short and sweet. Basically, this is just a new type of sweetener, not any healthier than sugar, but if you’re a foodie type person its fun to experiment with. However, I just want you to know your not doing your body a favor by using this over table sugar. Here’s an awesome article from the LA times about agave http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/30/health/he-nutrition30/
Read Full Post »