2.12 Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates (sugars), such as glucose and fructose, are high in calorie content and low in nutritional value. These are called simple because they contain only one sugar molecule.

Unfortunately the sweet taste they provide is something that many people enjoy, crave and over indulge in. Some studies have shown that simple carbohydrates are more addictive than cocaine and the U.S. is facing a national health crisis due to this problem, especially in our children.

Concentrated sugars have only been in the human diet for about 2000 years. Our taste buds and pleasure centers in our brain have not evolved to be able to handle this. They create a “supernormal” stimulus hijacking our pleasure centers making us want to come back for more, hence their addictive potential. Sugars in whole fruits also stimulate our pleasure centers quite a bit, but to a much lesser degree than these refined sugars.

Simple carbohydrates have no fiber and thus they do not tend to fill you up much leading to the ability to eat or drink these in large quantities (see Calorie Density). Simple carbohydrates are absorbed into your system quickly since they do not require any digestion which leads to spikes in your blood sugar, significantly increasing the risk of developing diabetes over time.

Drinking soda or fruit juice has a very significant negative impact on your heart health since you get a large amount of calories with essentially no fiber.

Here are some of the foods high in simple carbohydrates that should be limited or avoided completely:

  • Soda and fruit juices
  • Candy and sweetened snacks
  • Jams and jellies
  • Cereals
  • Pastries, cakes and donuts
  • Milk and other dairy products

Any product where sugar is added should be avoided. Simple sugars can be hidden in ingredient lists and many ways such as:

  • sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
  • corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup
  • dextrose, fructose
  • Agave nectar
  • Honey
  • Cane sugar, cane juice

Here is a full list of 61 names for sugar than manufacturers use to confuse consumers. Remember eating a fruit, vegetable, legume, whole grain or nut/seed will avoid all additives including added sugar. Eating sugar from whole foods is fine as long as you do not overconsume very large quantities (which is hard to do).

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