Carbohydrates provide energy for all bodily functions, especially the brain.
All green plants produce carbohydrates - sugar and starch.
There are 3 base sugars called monosaccharides - glucose (our blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), and galactose (milk sugar). Different combinations of these base sugars are contained in our foods and result in larger polysaccharide molecules also known as complex carbohydrates (or complex sugars).
Humans break down the more complex sugars into glucose, which is used as fuel by the brain, nervous system and muscles. Any unused portions of glucose not used immediately is either stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, or under the skin and throughout the body.
The body uses glucose for all its processes and is essential for life.
Starch is a complex carbohydrate
Complex carbohydrates such as starch and glycogen are much larger molecules and as a result require a longer time for enzymes to break them down to the glucose base sugar for absorption and use by the body. Starches comprise various combinations of different chains of glucose and fibre to make foods such as grains, rice and potatoes.
Carbohydrates are our energy providers and in nature the sugars and starches within the carbohydrate foods of fruits and whole grains are linked to vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fibre. These linked components are essential for metabolism of the sugars to produce energy within the cell for all the cellular processes required.
Refined carbohydrates such as flours, sugars and their refined products (breads, cakes, pasta etc), have been processed to be stripped of vitamin and mineral components. Therefore when we consume refined carbohydrates our body’s own valuable store of nutrients is depleted to generate the energy required for cellular processes.
THEREFORE, WE DO NOT NEED TO INGEST SUGAR IN REFINED FORM!
Simply eat balanced meals with protein, fats and some well-prepared whole grains.
But here is more to understand what the continued ingestion of refined carbohydrates can do to your metabolic processes and overall health.
The Sugar Cycle
The regulation of glucose in our blood for bodily functions comes under the control of a finely tuned mechanism using hormones, including insulin from the pancreas. When sugars are consumed in natural unrefined form as part of a balanced meal with protein and fats, they are digested slowly and enter the bloodstream over a period of hours, maintaining a steady even supply of glucose to our cells, contributing directly to maintain physical and emotional health.
Consuming refined sugars, on the other hand, creates a completely different scenario. A flood of sugar, without fats or protein, will result in a surge of blood glucose levels and a corresponding surge in insulin release as the body’s mechanism work, hard to correct the imbalance. This always results in a seesaw type reaction as the new low in blood sugar level hits and we crave the sugars again. Sustaining this type of food and diet behaviour will eventually lead to dysregulation of the endocrine system. The development of pathological conditions such as degenerative disease, allergies, obesity, depression, learning disabilities and behavioural problems is dependent on individuals constitution.
A Bit about Fiber
Fiber does play an important role in our digestion.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that remains largely undigested and provides little energy. Fiber is made up of the polysaccharides cellulose, gum, pectin, hemicellulose, and mucilages. Human enzymes mostly cannot break down fibers, although some may be digested by bacteria in the large intestine.
Dietary fiber exercises the muscles of the colon, the large intestine, maintaining the health and tone of this region of our digestive system. Peristalsis is the muscular action of the digestive tract and fiber increases the bulk of food along the intestine allowing for smoother transit and regular elimination.
What Does this mean? What do you do?
Sugar is addictive and is a difficult habit to break, requiring willpower and persistence.
Once refined sugars are removed from your diet, by replacing white flours and their products with properly prepared whole grains and limiting sweets to occasional desserts using natural sweeteners, a better level of health and energy will prevail.
To break the cycle I find that it helps to visualise what you are eating and feeding your family. Look at the labels,
4 grams sugar = 1 teaspoon sugar
or to make it even simpler, avoid foods that have labels, that means eat fresh whole foods.
Look at Sarah Wilson “I Quit Sugar”. Loads of recipes on her online website, or recipe books available. https://iquitsugar.com
“That Sugar Film” by Damon Gameau. A great watch. http://thatsugarfilm.com