I’m on vacation, but doing a bit of writing today from our family cabin in Washington State. It’s funny how “work” doesn’t seem so hard when I’m doing it in such a beautiful location.
As you may remember, my last article was to work through the fact vs. fiction of the “sugar feeds cancer” statement.
If you missed it, here’s the bottom line: there’s nothing about the cancer that “feeds” on sugar more than any
other cell in our body. At
this point, it has not been shown that eliminating dietary sources of
sugar and carbohydrate actually results in slower growth of tumors. It
does result in your body having to work extra hard to make the glucose
that it needs to function.
For today, I’m going to discuss the truth about sugar. What are food sources of sugar and how our bodies process them.
Which foods have “sugar”?
Just like in my last article, this is not a simple question! The term “sugar” is actually a very generalized term. I think the average consumer hears the word sugar and imagines table, or white sugar. Like the kind you would add to your coffee or use in baking. In fact, there are many different types of sugar. And that’s what makes this issue so complicated!
Typically, we nutritionists describe sources of dietary sugar as either “simple sugars” or “complex carbohydrates”. All sugars are considered as part of the carbohydrate group. Obviously some carbohydrates are more nutritious choices than others.
Simple sugars mean that the food is very close to the way that your body would absorb it. Therefore, it doesn’t take much digestion prior to the intestines being able to absorb it.
Most of the sugars absorbed by our bodies is in the form of glucose.
is used by cells of our bodies for energy. In fact, the brain runs most
efficiently on glucose and the body will do whatever it can to ensure
adequate glucose for the brain.
Even if you don’t provide your
body food sources of glucose, your body will make the right amount of
glucose for your brain to function. However, this process of making
glucose in the context of not eating any carbohydrates causes stress on
Table sugar is actually made of two basic sugars, fructose and glucose, bonded together. When we consume table sugar, our digestive system breaks up the bonds and we absorb the fructose and glucose separately.
Glucose is absorbed into the blood and carried for use by all our cells. Fructose is absorbed as fructose and then converted by the liver into a glucose-like substance that is treated as glucose by the body.
Lactose (or ‘milk sugar’) is made of glucose and galactose bonded together. Our bodies break up the lactose into glucose and galactose and they are abosrbed in the same way. Galactose is converted quickly into glucose after it is absorbed and is then treated as glucose.
Complex carbohydrates are also broken down into the basic sugars before they are absorbed. However, the digestive process requires more work, and there are many other nutrients that are included with the sugars in a complex carbohydrate. This includes fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytocemicals and others. All things that your body needs!
Some examples of complex carbohydrates are:
- wheat (noodles, bread, tortillas)
- winter squash
You’ll notice that these are all whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables, which is why many people refer these foods “healthy carbs”. In fact, many of them can be found on the American Instute for Cancer Research’s list of Foods that Fight Cancer!
Hopefully this clears some things up for you. If you have more questions, email me and I’ll be sure to address them in the next article. Until then, I want you to guess how many teaspoons of sugar the average American consumes in a day. GO!