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An Introduction to Natural Sugars

January 10, 2018

 

This article is an introduction to sugar, providing an overview of natural sugars (as opposed to artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols) on a fundamental level. It is my hope this article will build a better understanding in answering:

(1) Is one type of sugar really better than another?
(2) What is the role of sugar, and how is it processed in the body?

and eventually,

(3) Is sugar inherent of fruit different than added sugar?

 

Big Picture.

The energy required to fuel the body is gained entirely through the food we choose to consume. Of the three macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein), carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for nerve cells, including those of the brain [2] [4].

Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex, contingent upon their molecular composition. Simple carbohydrates, also known as sugars, contain one or two molecules (monosaccharides and disaccharides, respectively). Complex carbohydrates contain hundreds to thousands of molecules (polysaccharides).

We obtain carbohydrates primarily from plants as they make the most abundant form, glucose (via photosynthesis). Plants store glucose (a sugar), using it to support their own growth. When we eat plants, our body digests, absorbs, and utilizes the stored glucose. The focus of this article will be on simple carbohydrates, AKA sugars [4].

 

Simple carbohydrates.

AKA: Sugars

Structure: Composed of one or two molecules, further classified as monosaccharides and disaccharides, respectively. Molecules are composed of varying arrangements of 6 Carbon, 12 Hydrogen, 6 and Oxygen atoms. In disaccharides, these molecules (monosaccharides) are linked together via an alpha or a beta bond.

About: There are seven sugars in this classification. Four of these sugars are monosaccharides, and three sugars are disaccharides. Of the monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and ribose. Of the disaccharides are lactose, maltose, and sucrose [4].

 

 


Monosaccharides: Glucose, fructose, galactose, and ribose.

The three most common monosaccharides in the American diet are glucose, fructose, and galactose. There is little ribose incorporated in one’s diet. Their subtle differences in structure are responsible for differences in their sweetness level. Structure differences are expressed in specific arrangements of 6 Carbon, 12 Hydrogen, and 6 Oxygen atoms.

Glucose: The most abundant monosaccharide found in our diet and bodies, it generally does not occur by itself in foods. Rather, it attaches to another sugar molecule to form disaccharides and complex carbohydrates. Glucose is the preferred source of energy for the brain, and is a vit