Not all sugar is the same

There are dif­fer­ent types of car­bo­hy­drates. ­Depending on the num­ber of sugar mol­e­cules we can dis­tin­guish be­tween sim­ple sug­ars, known as mono­sac­cha­rides, dou­ble sug­ars also called dis­ac­cha­rides, and mul­ti­ple sug­ars, which in­clude poly­sac­cha­rides and oligosac­cha­rides. The lat­ter are com­plex car­bo­hy­drates. Oligosac­cha­rides com­prise be­tween three and 10 sugar mol­e­cules; poly­sac­cha­rides con­tain at least 11. The most im­por­tant mono­sac­cha­rides are glu­cose and fruc­tose, while milk and gran­u­lated sugar are dis­ac­cha­rides. Com­plex sug­ars are found in pulses, ce­real prod­ucts and pota­toes, so car­bo­hy­drates are not al­ways sweet.

How car­bo­hy­drates work

Be­fore car­bo­hy­drates reach the blood stream, the body has to con­vert them into sim­ple sugar or glu­cose. As a re­sult, sim­ple and dou­ble sug­ars have an in­stant im­pact, but no long-term ef­fect on how full we feel. Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates, such as pota­toes, ce­real prod­ucts or pulses, are there­fore bet­ter en­ergy providers. But we need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate clearly be­tween the en­ergy source and the de­sired re­sponse: when we take part in sport it can make per­fect sense to reach for a fast im­pact car­bo­hy­drate to pre­vent a sud­den drop in per­for­mance. And we shouldn’t for­get that fruit and milk, which “only” con­tain sim­ple or dou­ble sug­ars also pro­vide us with vi­t­a­mins, min­er­als and fibre that are es­sen­tial for health. So there is no ideal car­bo­hy­drate or food. In the final analy­sis, it’s all in the mix.

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