What is Sucrose, Glucose, and Fructose?

What is Sucrose, Glucose, and Fructose?Looking at the labels of food can definitely be confusing, especially when it comes to things like sugar. A few things you might see listed on labels are sucrose, glucose, and fructose. I think it’s safe to say that most people will realize these are sugars and label them as such. But while they are all sweeteners and end in “ose” they are decidedly different to your body.

Let’s start with sucrose, since it’s a combination of glucose and fructose. Sucrose is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including sugar cane and sugar beet, two things used to make refined sugar. As such, sucrose is also known as refined sugar, the same white sugar you add to your coffee or sprinkle on your cereal to make it a little bit tastier. Sucrose is actually made up of both glucose and fructose, and it’s separated by your body once you ingest it.

Glucose is more commonly known as blood sugar, because the sugar is absorbed into the blood. It’s used for energy, or when it’s not needed, stored in muscles for energy to be used later on. The body process carbohydrates into glucose and circulates it through the blood where it is then used or stored.

While fructose sounds similar to glucose, it’s actually handled by the body quite differently. Since glucose is the preferred source of energy for the body, fructose takes a back seat. Fructose also produces more body fat compared to glucose. This means that a diet that’s high in fructose could lead you to get gain weight. However, while fruits and vegetables do contain natural fructose, it would take a lot of apples and bananas for you to actually get fat from the amount of fructose found naturally in fruits and veggies.

The reason why so many people get fat from these sugars is because we consume so much of them. Sugar is added to most pre-packaged foods, and soda and fruit juice are two of the worst things you can have, especially when you’re drinking multiple cans or glasses per day. As you can see, with so much sugar in the things we drink and eat–despite being labelled as “light” or “fat free”–we can still gain a significant amount of weight, and it’s all because of sugar.

Refined Sugar vs. Natural Sugar

Refined Sugar vs. Natural SugarAs I outlined in a previous blog post late last week, refined sugar is bad for you. The refining process removes the impurities along with any of the good vitamins and nutrients that are found in raw sugar. But at the end of the day, the source of refined sugar is actually natural: it comes from sugar cane or sugar beet, so in a way, it is natural, but it has gone through a lengthy refining process.

There are many products out there that claim to be natural sugar, but are these any better for you than refined sugar?

In the sugar aisle you may find raw sugar or organic cane sugar and think either of these is a better choice than refined sugar. When it comes to raw sugar, it’s still sugar, but hasn’t gone through the full refining process as refined sugar. Instead, it has had the molasses removed from it. Organic cane sugar is simply sugar that has been sourced from sugar cane that was grown without pesticides. Both types of sugars and identical to refined sugar as far as your body is concerned, though the process used to grow it and prepare it for the supermarket shelf is slightly different.

Agave nectar is another type of natural sugar that I’ve seen popping up on store shelves in the healthy sections of supermarkets alongside the gluten-free and organic foods. Often the label will feature a picture of the agave plant, giving the product an exotic and healthier image. The truth is, in terms of health, agave nectar is virtually identical to refined sugar. Both are high in calories and carbs, though agave nectar will have a marginal and insignificant amount of fiber in it. However, it is said to be sweeter than refined sugar, so you may need to use less of it in your coffee or tea compared to refined sugar.

Like agave nectar, honey is another sweetener packed with so much natural sugar that you don’t need to use as much of it to sweeten foods or drinks. Honey is also packed with vitamins, so compared to refined sugar, you are getting some marginal health benefits from using honey over refined sugar.

The one advantage honey has over other sweeteners is the ratio of fructose to glucose. Studies have shown that amount of fructose in the sweetener–whether that’s refined sugar or agave nectar–can cause more abdominal fat on the body compared to glucose. This is the dangerous fat that can lead to heart disease. Honey has a balanced ratio of 40% fructose while agave nectar can be as high as 90% fructose.

Sugar, regardless of its source, should be consumed in moderation, and no type of sugar is “good” for you. Instead, think of these sugars as being “less bad” for you, in the same way that smokers who smoke “light” or “mild” cigarettes are under the impression that they’re consuming a product that’s healthier than the others.

What is Refined Sugar?

What is Refined Sugar?We’ve all heard about sugar and how we should be eating less of it, or more specifically, refined sugar. There are many people who follow strict diets where they do not eat any refined sugar. But what is refined sugar, how is it different from other sugar, and why is refined sugar so bad for us?

First off, refined sugar starts out as raw sugar sourced from sugar cane or sugar beet. During the refining process, molasses is removed from the raw sugar, resulting in refined sugar. This refining process turns raw sugar which has a brownish tint into the pure white sugar we’re all familiar with. Refined sugar is more “pure” than raw sugar because all the impurities have been removed, such as fibers from the stalk, soil, insects, etc.

Refined sugar has been altered so much from its original state that the resulting product is nearly 100% sucrose. This means that any nutritional value from vitamins or nutrients has been removed, resulting in a carbohydrate that provides nothing aside from calories and flavor. This is what people call “empty calories”: it does nothing good for the body.

There are many reasons why sugar is bad for you, including the fact that it can ruin your teeth, contribute to obesity and diabetes, cause liver problems, and possibly cancer as well due to elevated insulin levels. But the one side effect of refined sugar that effects us all is the addictive nature of sugar.

When we consume sugar, dopamine is released into the reward section of the brain. It makes us feel good, and we can become addicted to the good feelings that eating sugar gives us. If we don’t get it, we can go through sugar withdrawal which causes depression-like symptoms.

As a result, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of refined sugar you consume, or eliminate it completely. However, this can be hard, especially if you eat mainly prepackaged foods. Sugar is an ingredient in virtually everything that we eat and drink, from soda, candy, and even in the foods where you wouldn’t expect to find it, such as pasta sauce.

How Sugar is Hiding in Our Food

How Sugar is Hiding in Our FoodDr. Tania was on Joey Diaz’s The Church of What’s Happening Now podcast the other day and she mentioned something interesting that I hadn’t really considered before. She talked about how sugar is hiding in our food and we may not even realize it.

It’s common knowledge that high fructose corn syrup is another word for sugar, but there are many other names to look out for. In fact, there are upwards of 300 or more ingredients in the foods we eat that are simply sugar in disguise. Here are some of the more popular sweeteners to look out for:

  • anything listed as sugar, obviously (beet sugar, cane sugar, date sugar, etc.)
  • all varieties of syrups (buttered syrup, carob syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, etc.)
  • fruit juices or fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • fructose
  • maltodextrin
  • maltose
  • dextrose
  • sorbitol

Dr. Tania suggests that if one of these other names for sugar is within the first five ingredients listed on a label, it’s best to avoid it. Furthermore, you should always read labels because sugar is hiding in virtually everything that’s pre-packaged, even in foods that you wouldn’t expect, like tomato sauce for instance.

So how can you avoid eating the foods that contain hidden sugars? As Dr. Tania said, it’s simple: eat foods that don’t have labels, like fruits and vegetables. Of course, that’s not always possible, so hopefully these tips will help you avoid the foods with hidden sugar.

For more about Dr. Tania, make sure you visit her Facebook page.

A Closer Look at Bolthouse Farms Juices

A Closer Look at Bolthouse Farms JuicesYesterday I took a look at Bolthouse Farms smoothies to break down each flavor based on a few factors, such as calories, sugar content, fiber, protein, etc. Today I’m going to do the same thing, but with some of the Bolthouse Farms juices. While I personally haven’t tried any of the Bolthouse Farms juices, I was curious to see how they stacked up to the smoothies from a health standpoint.

Just like the smoothies, the serving size for all the Bolthouse Farms juices is 8 fl. oz. which is 240ml. In terms of calories, the Bolthouse juices with the least calories for an 8 fl. oz. serving are the Mango Coconut Splash with 60 calories, 100% Carrot and Organic Carrot with 70, and Daily Greens with 90 calories. Acai Pomegranate and Passion Orange Guava have the most calories per serving at 170, with the rest falling somewhere in the middle.

Interestingly, some of the Bolthouse Farms Juices are sweetened, either with cane sugar or with stevia, while others are not. The Bolthouse Farms juices with the least amount of sugar are 100% Carrot, Organic Carrot, and Mango Coconut Splash with only 13g of sugar each, with the Mango Coconut Splash being the only of the three that’s sweetened with stevia. Acai Pomegranate has the most with 37g of sugar, next is Passion Orange Guava with 33g, and Mango Lemonade trails behind those with 32g of sugar, though Mango Lemonade contains cane sugar as its second ingredient with water being the first.

Taking a look at dietary fiber now, Tropical + Carrot has the most with 5g of fiber per serving with Acai + 10 Superblend, Super Greens, and Mango Ginger + Coconut close behind with 3g of fiber per serving. The rest of the Bolthouse Farms juices have little to no fiber. Similarly, none of the juices are packed with protein, with Orange + Carrot and Organic Carrot containing the most fiber with just 2g per serving.

As I said at the top of this post, I haven’t tried any of these Bolthouse Farms juices before, so I can’t comment on the taste of any of them. What I can say is that the Mango Coconut Splash has definitely piqued my interest. It sounds like it could be good drink to have post-workout, made from mostly water, coconut water, and sweetened with stevia.