Carbs are, in principle, divided into three categories, and this differentiation results accordingly from the number of glucose molecules associated with each other.
- Sugar. This is how simple carbohydrates are called when they are in their simplest form. They can be added to foods such as sugar in sweets, desserts, processed foods and soft drinks. This category also includes the types of sugar that are found naturally in fruits, vegetables and milk.
- Starch. This is where complex carbohydrates belong, which are made from many simple sugars that bind together. Our body thus has to break down the starch that foods have into sugars to use them for energy. Starch can be found in foods such as bread, cereals and pasta. We also find it in some vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and corn. Starch is divided into two categories, in the first we have amylose (found in foods such as beans, legumes) that is digested slowly, and in the second we have amylopectin (pasta, rice, potatoes) which is quickly absorbed and causes an increase in blood glucose. Amylose is the best and the one we prefer!
- Fiber. They are also complex carbohydrates. The body can’t break down almost most of them, so eating fiber foods can help you feel full when you eat. Diets high in fiber may have health benefits, but this is a topic for future discussion. Fiber is found in many foods derived from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.
But what is the difference between them?
Is there a difference between all kinds of carbs? The answer is of course yes! There is a big difference if you eat a piece of cake or a fruit. Because whole foods such as a fruit are combined with minerals and vitamins while the cake contains only sugar. And what is sugar after all? Energy. And the amount of energy we get from processed foods is so excessive that it only causes chaos in the functioning of our body.
Since you already know that cakes are bad for you, let’s return to the issue of carbohydrates that we find in whole foods such as potatoes and fruits for example. What to do with them, since their carbohydrates are also converted into sugar?
That’s right, all carbohydrates are converted into sugar, but when these are whole foods, that are unprocessed, these carbohydrates are metabolized differently. For instance
- Vegetables, although mainly carbohydrates, have low sugar levels as they have a higher amount of fiber.
- Fruits containing fructose also have a high water content, so they tend to have a lower glycemic load (GL), which numerically reflects how drastically a food makes your blood sugar rise.
- Starchy foods, depending on the way they are prepared, will create enzymes that will break down these bonds of glucose sugars, that affect our blood sugar levels. Some starches, such as those found in potatoes, are higher in the glycemic index, which means that they break down more easily, leading to faster glucose uptake and possibly an increase in sugar.
Depending on the state of health of each one, the goals and lifestyle you follow, you may need to adjust the carbohydrates you receive. Check your blood glucose levels often and try to understand the hunger signals your body sends you (i.e. if you eat without getting hungry). Then start adjusting your meals always starting with the foods that are most nutritious. I believe that you will adapt, naturally, to the intake of less than 100 gr of carbohydrates a day, which is the basis for a healthy diet!
How sugar affects the absorption of vitamins
Most people know that eating a lot of sugar increases the levels of glucose and insulin in their blood, and at the same time they are driven towards obesity. The risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer is also increased.
What most people do not know, however, is that excessive glucose can also lead to nutrient deficiencies that negatively affect the levels of vitamins, minerals and trace elements that eventually reach the cells. Sugar causes this by constantly reducing the degree of absorption of essential vitamins and minerals, and that can lead to large deficiencies.
The following vitamins and minerals run the greatest risk of being depleted in the presence of excessive glucose in the blood.
Vitamin C is limited due to sugar. Humans belong to a small group of mammals that cannot synthesize vitamin C on their own. In addition, both vitamin C and glucose use the same transporters, and therefore high glucose levels can slow down and limit the transport and absorption of vitamin C in the body. There is literally a competition between glucose and vitamin C in the bloodstream. When a sufficient amount of vitamin C cannot reach the cells, we have a decrease in the function of the immune system and the regeneration of tissues is suppressed.
Magnesium is depleted by eating large amounts of sugar. Magnesium is necessary in almost every organ of the body. It regulates the function of nerves and muscles, helps create proteins, synthesizes DNA, builds bones and regulates blood sugar levels. High blood sugar and increased insulin increase the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys and force the body to deplete its reserves.
Vitamin D deficiencies increase with the consumption of sugar. While shortages are more common in geographic areas with the least amount of sunshine, sugar can exacerbate the problem. This is because it increases the presence of an enzyme that helps in its synthesis. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to inflammation, a greater risk of infection, autoimmune diseases, dementia and certain cancers.
Calcium intake is inhibited with the consumption of sugar. Calcium is essential for bone health, blood clotting and aiding nerve and muscle contraction. Since vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium, sugar indirectly suppresses the body’s intake of this essential mineral. Glucose, a form of sugar, is also associated with increasing the excretion of calcium of the kidneys through the suppression of hormones and the inhibition of calcium reabsorption.
Chromium is drained from sugar. It is a trace element that is involved in both the control of blood sugar and the metabolism of macronutrients. While only small amounts are required by the body, an excess amount of sugar can cause a deficiency, causing it to be excreted. Chromium deficiency can then contribute to higher blood sugar levels and poor glucose tolerance, because chromium is essential in binding insulin.
- Most people are already aware of the numerous health risks of eating too much sugar. However, the role of sugar in nutrient deficiencies and the suppression of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the body may not be so familiar.
- Avoid all processed sugars.
- Read the food labels to understand how much sugar there is in the products you buy. Do not forget that all carbohydrates are converted into sugar.
- Try whole foods that have a lot of fiber.
What to do
All carbohydrates have sugar. It doesn’t matter if it’s apple or ice cream. Although both will be converted into glucose in your body, this does not make them equal, you should know how you can handle them well and what your personal limit is. So then you will be able to choose how and to what extent you incorporate sugar into your lifestyle.
Some simple tips :
- Avoid refined sugar: There is a red line when it comes to sugar. I don’t think there is room, on any diet, for sweets, cookies, breads, ice creams or any processed products.
- Limit starch: Starchy foods should be limited to small portions and in a small frequency. I would say that once a week is enough. This applies to potatoes and rice.
- Eat seasonal fruits: Some fruits, can be included in the diet during some periods of the year. In the past, fruits were available only seasonally and mainly during the summer. If you want a simple tip, eat only seasonal, fresh and local fruits. Also try to prefer fruits that have a low glycemic load (<7).
- Wear a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor): By wearing a glucose monitoring device you can get a better picture of your personal levels of carbohydrate tolerance.
- Start a Ketogenic Diet: The Ketogenic Diet is a sustainable, healthy, and delicious diet that avoids all the pitfalls that high-sugar diets have.
- Choose vegetables: Fiber carbohydrates help reduce the effect of glucose, as they slow down the process of digestion and the breakdown of glucose in the blood stream. Most vegetables have moderate carbohydrates in quantity and are accompanied by fiber that makes them the best choice when it comes to consuming carbohydrates.
- Energy levels are a very good indicator of general level of health and inflammation in the body.
- Most health problems appear after some chronic problem of inflammation in the body.
- High sugar consumption is at the core of most inflammatory conditions, since high-sugar foods are not found in nature, and so the human body is not able to handle them.
- High consumption of sugar is deadly. Avoid refined sugar at all costs and be smart with the amount and type of carbohydrates you receive.
- Follow a ketogenic diet to reduce the levels of inflammation in your body and to feel better.