Friday, May 9, 2014

Sugar by many other names may not taste as sweet....

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Let's talk sugar for a moment. First, I don't have a medical background. I'm just determined to figure out what's going on, and am sharing what I've found out through online research. I'm trying to explain enough to form a basis for making reasonable nutritional choices.

The three simple sugars (monosaccharides):

  1. glucose: the primary fuel for our bodies.
  2. fructose: processed slowly in the liver, and even slower by some people (maybe me?); stored by fat if too much is consumed at once.
  3. galactose: primarily found in dairy; apparently easily processed in quantity by the body.
Although fructose is considered sweeter than glucose, to me it has what I think of as the "high" sweet, while glucose is the more mellow note. I'm not quite sure where the galactose fits. Think of these three as K'nex or Tinker Toys. Hook simple sugars together in a variety of ways, and you get other sugars.

A touch of chemistry: some common "compound" sugars:

  • Sucrose = glucose + fructose (this is white "table" sugar)
  • Lactose = glucose + galactose (the sugar in milk)
  • Dextrose Monohydrate = glucose + water (solid crystal form)
  • Maltose = multiple glucose (syrup or powder; malt, used in brewing)
FYI: An enzyme breaks the bond in lactose that binds the glucose to the galactose. People who don't have enough of that enzyme are "lactose intolerant".

Does the source of the sugar matter?

Imagine you're a liver, and you just got loaded with fructose. Now you're trying to make enough enzymes to break it down. Will your job be any easier if the fructose came from honey instead of corn syrup? There may be other wonderful things that were in that honey, but to your liver, fructose is fructose, no matter where it came from.

What does matter? Soluble fiber, conveniently provided in whole fruit to complement the fructose. The fiber slows down digestion, and makes the fructose take longer to reach you, the liver. Slow and steady makes a big difference. It reminds me of Lucy and Ethel, faced with too much candy to process. Your liver will store the extra on your body too.


The sugar sources:

Ok, so let's look at that list of sugar sources again. I'm not looking for the most "natural" source, or the additional good things included with the sugar. Here, it's all about how much fructose and how much glucose. For example, while honey is natural, delicious, and helps against allergies, bottom line: high in fructose.

Sources of Glucose:

  • Corn Syrup (check the label and make sure they didn't add the high fructose stuff)
  • Malt Used by brewers, who call the syrup Liquid Malt Extract (LME), and the powder Dry Malt Extract (DME); also used by bakers, found where brewing supplies are sold. 
  • Brown Rice Syrup: this is primarily malt, found at health food stores and online.
  • Dextrose Monohydrate, (AKA glucose, dextrose, corn sugar, grape sugar) Also used by brewers.
  • Dextrose Anhydrous: expensive, but can be made from Dextrose Monohydrate, if you really want to avoid adding water to a recipe.

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