Don’t Avoid All Carbs – A Handy Guide to Saccharides

I’ve said in previous articles that you should avoid carbs. When I said that, I was making a rash generalization. You shouldn’t indiscriminately avoid all carbohydrates. What I should have said is: you should generally avoid sugar, and most starches, or at least limit them.

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The Glucose Molecule

All carbohydrates are some combination of saccharides. Simple sugars, like glucose, fructose and galactose, are monosaccharides. They are extremely easy for the body to digest and use as energy, but they may cause a storage reaction by your body.

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Sugar is actually a compound sugar

Sucrose and lactose are disaccharides or compound sugars. They take about as long as it takes to make it to your stomach to break down into their simpler forms: monosaccharides. All disaccharides are organic compounds of monosaccharides, e.g. sucrose is one glucose molecule bonded with one fructose molecule. You can actually break this connection by boiling sugar in water, making a simple syrup.

Starch, glycogen and, and “dietary fiber” are polysaccharides. Our digestive systems have the ability to break down starch and glycogen to glucose fairly easily. They are actually pretty close to the same thing. Starch is energy stored by a plant, while glycogen is secondary, to fat tissue, energy storage for animals. They have similar functions and structures and in times where a body needs energy quickly they can be used interchangeably. This is why some athletes “carb load” before intense exertion.

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Broccoli is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Fiber is indigestible, at least for most animals (rudiments like cows are an exception). It is found only in plants. These carbs are absolutely necessary for health. There are two types: insoluble and soluble. All insoluble fiber does is move through your system, absorb water and make bowel movements easier. Helping you go is noble and important, but it has no nutritional value. It is inert.

Soluble fiber is what makes you gassy when you eat beans or broccoli. That is because soluble fiber is also mostly inert until it gets to your colon. Then it is consumed by all the good bacteria in your gut. This bacteria gives off gases when it consumes soluble fiber. These bacteria are usually called probiotics and the soluble fiber that they need to survive in your colon are usually called prebiotics. Healthy gut bacteria have been shown to improve health in so many ways that we will have another article soon to cover all the benefits. In order to keep all those little creatures healthy you must feed them soluble fiber.

Sources:

Wikipedia: Dietary Fiber
Wikipedia: Polysaccharide
Wikipedia: Monosaccharide
Wikipedia: Disaccharide

Tom

About Tom

I co-founded Health Now, Wealth Forever when I realized I was unhappy with where I was in life. I was overweight, unhealthy, and stuck in a business that I couldn't save. I had little hope. With our mission of helping others with the same problems, I am now in a much better place in all facets of my life. Most of my posts are about improving your diet - I think health most important. But, I also write about sustainable living, self-improvement, and occasionally improving finances. After all, one of my personal mottos is balance in everything.

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