Carbohydrate Addicts' Official
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

on Carbohydrates




Q: What are carbohydrates? What's the difference between simple sugars and complex carbohydrates?

A: Carbohydrates come in many sizes and have many different names. Without trying to act like chemist or ask anyone to understand chemistry, we would like to talk a little about carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates that are in our foods but never get digested and never are absorbed into our intestines but rather pass right through our bodies after we have eaten. Even though we have eaten them, they are "unavailable carbohydrates". For some carbohydrate addicts they seem to stimulate hunger and cravings in some way that we do not yet understand. Just be aware that you may or may not be influenced by them. Carbohydrates that are in our food that can be digested and absorbed into our intestine, thereby entering our bodies. In general these are the SUGARS (simple carbohydrates), STARCHES (complex carbohydrates), and ALCOHOL SUGARS. One clue to identifying any sugar in a list of ingredients in foods is to look for the ending "ose" on an ingredient name. For instance, glucose or sucrose.

The term "simple sugar represents a carbohydrate that is a single unit, the best known being GLUCOSE (commonly called grape sugar), It is also known as DEXTROSE. It is the main carbohydrate found in our bodies, although it is rarely eaten in this form. It generally comes from dietary starches (complex carbohydrates) that we eat. The body breaks down the starch into glucose. Another simple sugar is FRUCTOSE (commonly called fruit sugar or levulose). It is very similar to glucose. A third simple sugar is GALACTOSE. It is rarely found in foods but may be added to a food. Another simple sugar is XYLOSE and is found in exceeding small amounts in food but again may be added to foods by food processors.

Double sugars are sugars that are made up of two simple sugars stuck together. The most common and best known double sugar is SUCROSE (commonly called cane sugar also known as beet sugar, also known as table sugar -the stuff you put in your coffee or tea or sprinkle on your cereal in the morning). Sucrose is made up of a glucose stuck to a fructose. When we eat sucrose, our bodies digest is and change it into fructose and glucose which then enter our blood to be used by the body. This mixture of glucose and fructose is then called an INVERT SUGAR. You may see invert sugar listed on candy labels etc. Another common double sugar is LACTOSE (commonly called milk sugar). It is made up of glucose stuck to galactose. When we eat lactose, our bodies digest is and change it into glucose and galactose which then enter our blood to be used by the body. A third kind of double sugar is MALTOSE (malt sugar) that is made up a glucose stuck to a glucose. When we eat maltose, our bodies digest is and change it into glucose which then enter our blood to be used by the body.

The ending "ol" identifies something as an alcohol. Alcohol sugars are alcohol forms of glucose, fructose, and another single sugar, xylose. The alcohol form of glucose is called SORBITOL or GLUCITOL, the alcohol form of fructose is MANNITOL, and the alcohol form of mannitol is called XYLITOL. Sorbitol (glucitol) is changed into fructose when it reaches the liver.

Starches represent a group of complex (giant) carbohydrates that are generally found in the seeds and roots of plants. They are generally made up of long chains of glucose strung together, something like a chain of pearls on a string. When starches get into our bodies, we break them down into glucose units, sort of like cutting each pearl, one after another, from the necklace. AMYLOSE and AMYLOPECTIN are common forms of starch that appear in things like, rice, beans, potatoes, beets, etc. INULIN, not to be confused with "insulin", is a rare form of starch found in artichokes. Inulin is a complex carbohydrate that is made up of a long chain of fructose units.

Many "experts" mistakenly talk about fructose as a complex carbohydrate. In fact, fructose is a simpler sugar than is sucrose (table sugar). So don't think that eating fruit or drinking fruit juice is a way of avoiding simple sugar. Simple sugars stimulate insulin release faster than any other form of carbohydrate.

Shakespeare once said that "a rose by any other name smells just as sweet". Well, for the carbo addict, a carbohydrate by any other name "hits the spot" but may not taste as sweet. Here are the sweetnesses of sugars when compared to the sweetness of GLUCOSE.

 
maltose = 40% as sweet as glucose
 
lactose = 20% as sweet as glucose
 
glucose = 70% as sweet as glucose
 
fructose = 110-170 as sweet as glucose
 
sorbitol = 70% as sweet as glucose
 
mannitol = 70% as sweet as glucose
 
xylitol = 90% as sweet as glucose
 
glucose syrup = 30-60% as sweet as glucose high-fructose corn syrup = 100-150% as sweet as glucose By the way, you should know that "high fructose corn syrup" is mostly glucose, up to 75-80% glucose.



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