There is no question that Americans are addicted to sugar. On average, 150 pounds are consumed per person per year. For many of us, that means eating our own weight in sugar every year! So, it might be helpful to find out what that means - what sugar really is, what value it has in food, and what problems it causes. We will see all that below in this mega article.
The sugar industry is large: It is estimated that it makes a profit of more than one hundred billion a year. As with any business that moves millions, this one is bound to have plenty of information that will support such an empire wherever you look - media, bookstores, advertising, etc., ships like this don't like to be shaken.
On the other side is a group that says that white sugar is a poison, a harmful drug, hardly different from cocaine, etc. Some statements are true, while others are opinions without reference, often bordering on hysteria.
For our purposes, we will focus on what can actually be verified about sugar, thus avoiding misinformation errors on both sides of the fence.
What is sugar?
That's easy - it's that white thing in the sugar bowl. The white cane sugar refined is one type of sugar, however, there is also brown sugar, raw sugar, fruit sugar, corn sugar, milk sugar, beet sugar, alcohol, monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. All of these are also sugar.
Let's start with the white sugar
It is made by refining sugar cane, a process that involves many chemicals. Or beets, whose refinement also involves synthetic chemicals and charcoal.
The big problem is that the final product does not contain any of the nutrients, vitamins or minerals of the original plant. White sugar is a simple carbohydrate, which means a fractionated, artificial, and devitalized by-product of the original plant.
The original plant was a complex carbohydrate, which means that it contains all the properties of a complete food: vitamins, minerals, enzymes.
Refined beet and cane sugar is sucrose. Until the mid-1970s, sucrose was the main sugar Americans consumed.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
That changed when manufacturers discovered a cheaper source of refined sugar: corn. A process was developed that could change the natural fructose in corn to glucose, and then by adding synthetic chemicals, change the glucose back into an artificial synthetic type of fructose called high fructose. (Freeston)
High fructose quickly became big. In 1984, Coca-Cola and Pepsi swapped sugarcane for HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). True connoisseurs could tell the difference, but there weren't many of us to explain it.
Today high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the sweetener of choice in most sodas and processed foods. To find out where it is, I invite you to read the labels. As of 1997, the global production of HFCS exceeded 8 billion kilograms. (Freeston)
Remember, natural fructose is contained in almost all raw fruits and vegetables. It is a natural food. Moderate amounts of natural fructose can be easily digested by the body without stress or depletion of mineral reserves.
Natural fructose does not cause blood sugar spikes, unless you overdo it. Natural fructose is not addictive.
High fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, cannot be well digested, it actually inhibits digestion, is addictive, and causes a large number of biochemical errors, as we will see later. HFCS is artificial, a non-food.
What are carbohydrates?
Everyone knows that food comes in three forms: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Most foods have all three, in varying proportions.
Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The main carbohydrates are sugar, starches, and cellulose.
Sugars are sweet carbohydrates, either single or double molecules: monosaccharides or disaccharides.
Starches are the main form of carbohydrate storage in plants. Starches are polysaccharides, which means chains of more than two carbohydrate molecules. Starches break down into sugars - that's why if you hold a cracker in your mouth for a minute, you start to taste sweet.
Cellulose is made from long, fibrous chains of carbohydrates, primarily for the structural support of a plant. It is cellulose that provides us with fiber in the diet.
Fruits contain mainly sugars, while vegetables contain mainly starches. And both contain cellulose.
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