Excessive amounts of sugar are a significant component to every degenerative disease. The high amount of processed sugars in our diets; soda, cookies, cereal, chips, baked goods, etc…are affecting us at younger ages. How many children do we each know with issues of excessive weight gain, hormone disruption, or even heart disease? It's a staggering amount, in my opinion, and something that can be prevented…but that's another soap box (see my kid's lunchbox post series for more).
Sugars are complicated, I know! Kind of like trying to differentiate dietary fats, differentiating dietary sugars is a little bumpy. Hopefully, I can do a good job of helping you navigate this.
What is Sugar?
It's that delicious sweet stuff we are all addicted to! But, seriously…sugars are a type of carbohydrate, and an instant energy source for our bodies. The term sugar is typically used to refer to table sugar (extracted from either sugar cane or beets), but encompasses two groups of carbohydrates called; mono-saccarides and di-saccarides. Theses saccarides are naturally found in fruits, vegetables and grains, and especially high in starchy fruits and vegetables (starch is several glucose molecules stuck together, which is why starchy foods are broken down into high amounts of blood sugar).
Monosaccarides are (Mono = one) single molecule sugars. These are simple sugars that are extremely easy to digest and absorb. They include Glucose, Fructose and Galactose.
Disaccarides are (Di = two) multiple molecule sugars. These are more complex and require digestion to break them down into monosaccarides before absorption. These include Sucrose, Lactose, and Maltose.
Breaking Down Glucose (Not physically)
So Glucose, the building block of all sugar and the raiser of blood sugar. Let's learn a bit more about this basic sugar.
Glucose is absorbed in the intestines, and raises blood sugar…which to some extent is normal and good. Our brains need glucose to work properly, and our cells need glucose for energy production. In response to rising blood sugar levels our bodies producing insulin (a hormone) in the Pancreas. Insulin binds to the Glucose and transports it into the cells that need it. Any unused glucose is transported to the fat cells, by insulin, for storage. Doesn't sound too bad, right?
Well, the problem arises when the body is constantly given high levels of glucose through poor diet, or high amounts at one time through binge eating. The Pancreas does a good job of handling the overload for awhile, but eventually it becomes exhausted and has to take a break…so the Pancreas shuts down and the insulin is not produces normally. In PCOS with insulin resistance, the Pancreas is sporadic, it is on the verge of collapse. It is occasionally able to manage the necessary insulin production, and other times shuts down. Eventually this will turn into a complete shutdown of insulin production…aka Type 2 Diabetes. When the blood sugar is constantly elevated and the Pancreas gives up, the cells become starved of energy but the blood in the sugar remains high. (why PCOS women crave sugar.) This can lead to damage in the body.
Breaking Down Fructose
Fructose is often not mentioned when dealing with PCOS, insulin resistance or diabetes, but it is an important sugar. It does not raise blood sugar directly, so is often used as a substitute for those who are working to manage their blood sugar levels. I know, it seems that you can't do anything right in nutrition the more you learn, but I promise that is not the case.
Fructose is naturally found in fruits, and some vegetables, and is what gives fruit is sweet flavor. Like Glucose, Fructose is absorbed through the intestines, where it then travels to the liver to be processed. Although insulin does not transport Fructose to the Liver, it is used to stimulate the production of the protein used to transport Fructose to the Liver. The Fructose is then converted into Glucose, Glycogen, and Glycerols.
Fructose is the most consumed form of sugar in America. Found in most packaged goods as High Fructose Corn Syrup, in sodas, baked goods, and in many other packaged products. In normal amounts found in fruit and honey, it is easy to manage in a healthy human body. In large, or concentrated amounts over long periods of time, it causes damage. High consumption of fructose is linked with:
Many women with PCOS who have had their blood work done, will notice an elevated triglyceride level. This is because of too much fructose.
Learning to Read Labels
Oh those darn nutrition labels. It really bothers me that they can legally be so un-disclosing and deceitful. I am also very surprised when I find added sugar in things that do not need attend sugar…apple sauce is sweet enough on its own. Always check the labels.
Here is a list of common "added sugar" terms:
So, How Do We Avoid Excess Sugar
Of course you can't, and don't want to eliminate all sugar from your diet…you need some level of sugar. What you want to eliminate is junk sugar and excess sugar.
Of course when you have extreme symptoms and even the full onset of Type 2 Diabetes, this changes the game…and the limit of what your body can handle decreases significantly.
If I am going to use a sweetener, MY PERSONAL go to is RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY. Why? It is a mix of Fructose and Glucose, as well as Maltose. But, it's big claim is that it actually provides nutrients and immune boosting phytochemicals (high fructose corn syrup can't claim that). Some research actually supports that honey has the opposite effect than it should on blood sugar, and the theory is that it is because of the added nutrients and chemicals. ONLY RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY provides these nutrients and phytochemicals. They are destroyed and removed in the pasteurizing and filtering processes. Honey provides Vitamin A, All the B's, C, D, E and K, as well as Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Iodine. As well as many other chemicals and antioxidants (over 80 different types). It's glycemic index is 55 (more tomorrow).
Maple syrup is my second choice. It is mostly sucrose (65%), with a small percentage of single glucose, and fructose. Why do I like maple syrup? One; it's another natural sugar source that has been consumed for thousands of years. It is rich in minerals (more than honey) as well as vitamins, and other phytochemicals. It also has a GI of 55. Different grades have different levels of sugar, and more concentrated amounts of different nutrients. Click here to read more
There is quite a bit of information on this topic alone. I welcome questions that may have not been addressed.
Breakfast #3 Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Porridge
Makes 4 Servings
In a saucepan, add Quinoa and Coconut Oil. Toast Quinoa until golden. Add in Coconut Milk, Vanilla and Cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Add water if not tender.
Top with Apricots and Hemps Seeds.
* Depending on how you like your texture, add more water if needed. I like mine mushy.
Lunch #3 Bibimbop
I could have easily just made another lettuce wrap for lunch from yesterday's leftovers. I decided to remake those ingredients into a completely different meal. This way you have more options. This is a grain bowl, at it's best. I used the Bulgogi and Kimchi from my dinner last night, but you could use any leftover asian food. The key is to top it with an egg. I like mine poached, but traditionally they are fried.
Dinner #3 Lemon Rosemary Meatballs with Kale and White Beans