FOOD FOR FEELING GREAT – Part 5 – SUGARY CARBOHYDRATE FOODS
Spring 2012 True Natural Health Magazines
By Roger French
Sugary carbohydrate foods refers to the concentrated sugary foods, meaning dried fruits and the natural sweeteners that include honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and so on. Their chief characteristic is that they are all very sweet. Their chief negative is that their high sugar concentration can lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and possible eventually to diabetes (high blood sugar).
Although the fresh fruits are sweet, sugary foods, they are nothing like as sweet as these concentrated foods, because the fresh fruits are high in water, their water contents ranging typically from 75% in bananas to 93% in watermelon. In contrast, the water in dried fruits ranges from 12% in raisins to 37% in prunes and their sugar contents from 31% in prunes to 70 – 73% in raisins and sultanas. (For details of the fresh fruits, see Part 1 in the Spring 2011 issue.)
How much concentrated sugary carbohydrate do we need each day? We don’t really need any. Dried fruits are nice as a treat or to provide sweetness in baking. They are also very useful as light-weight, high-energy foods for travelling. Upon arrival, they can be soaked to restore them to something like the original fresh fruit. But they are not essential foods.
Honey and the other sweeteners are useful where sweetening is desired. The natural ones are nutritionally much superior to refined sugar.
There is an upper limit to amount of concentrated sugary foods to be consumed in a day. Honey, etc, should be eaten very sparingly, whereas dried fruits can be eaten in larger quantities. For an adult of average size, a reasonable upper limit for dried fruits would be of the order of 60 gm, or at least no more than this amount at any one time, so as not to upset blood sugar level. If a person suffers sugar reactive hypoglycaemia, the upper limit would best be nil.
Hypoglycaemia is a big issue with concentrated sugary foods because they can elevate blood sugar level very rapidly. But the body is not geared for high blood sugar levels, and the pancreas tends to ‘panic’, over-react and release too much insulin. Consequently, blood sugar level drops rapidly and over-shoots to too low a level. This produces a craving for sugar and the person goes for another sweet treat. Blood sugar rises rapidly and the cycle is repeated all over again. This can happen a number of times through the day, and if it goes on for months or years, the pancreas enlarges to cope with the endless excessive demand. The enlarged pancreas now reacts to even small amounts of sugar, and the person now has chronic low blood sugar, that is, hypoglycaemia.
Apart from physical and mental fatigue and feeling hungry sooner after a meal, hypo also encourages the body to turn ingested carbohydrates into fat stores.
Much later down the track, the pancreas could become exhausted and the result is then the opposite, diabetes.
The measure of how rapidly a food raises blood sugar is called Glycaemic Index or simply GI. Many of these concentrated sugars are high GI.
NOTE that quantities of food constituents vary among individual foods due to differences in climate, soil fertility, the tests used and so on. Throughout this article, it is only possible to give approximate figures. All nutrient quantities are per 100 grams of the food.
‘Nature’s confectionery’! And there’s plenty of choice. First up is dates, then there are the dried grapes – raisins sultanas, currants and Sunmuscats. The common dried stone fruits are apricots, peaches and nectarines. Also commonly dried are apples, pears, cranberries, goji berries and acai berries.
Australian dried grapes are considered to be among the finest in the world, because of the very high quality standards that Australian growers maintain under the guidance of their association, Dried Fruits Australia (www.driedfruitsaustralia.org.au).
Up to four kilograms of fresh grapes are required to produce just one kilo of dried vine fruit.
What is the difference between raisins, sultanas and currants? They are dried from different kinds of grapes. Seedless raisin varieties include Thompsons, Flames and Sultana. The sultana grape is generally smaller than the normal raisin, but larger than currants, which are made from the Zante grape.
Not only are dates super sweet, they also contain an impressive array of nutrients. The sweetness is, of course, sugar – in fact, two simple sugars glucose and fructose. With a sugar content of typically 66%, dates are very high glycaemic index, so to be avoided by people with diabetes. The GI can be reduced by dipping a date in tahini, by adding a dab of peanut butter or by inserting an almond or cashew into the centre vacated by the seed.
Fresh is the ideal way to consume dates, but they are expensive. Dried dates, in which the water content is reduced to typically 16%, are still highly nutritious.
Protein at around 2% is not very significant. But fibre at 10% provides excellent bulk, which prevents constipation and carries spent cholesterol out of the body.
Most dried fruits, because of their concentration, are high in the important alkaline mineral potassium, and dates (dried) are typical at 730 mg per 100 gm. Also well supplied are calcium (47 mg), magnesium (50 mg), iron (2.6 mg), manganese and copper.
This dried fruit is rich in the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are concentrated in the retina at the back of the eye and protect against macular degeneration.
There is no vitamin C in dates, probably due to long storage time between harvest and reaching the consumer.
Dates are an energy-rich snack, ideal to carry when travelling or bushwalking. For freshness, choose dates that are plump, glossy and not too wrinkled, and avoid those that are hard, black or have sugar crystals on the skin.
Like the grapes they are dried from, raisins are excellent nutrition. They have a very cleansing effect on the bloodstream, are high in antioxidants and are good for high blood pressure.
But raisins are highly concentrated. Whereas grapes are typically 80% water, raisins are only 12%, with a high sugar content (mainly glucose) at around 70% similar to dates. They should be eaten in relatively small quantities – no more than approximately 60 gm at a time.
Fibre is a mediocre 5%.
Raisins are one of the richest foods in potassium, containing a hefty 1,050 mg, and second only to dried apricots. Calcium and magnesium are modest at 41 mg and 35 mg respectively. However, iron is an impressive 4.2 mg, justifying the reputation of raisins as a good source of iron. Raisins are also one of the top sources of the trace mineral, boron, which provides protection against osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
Raisins that have been derived from dark red/black grapes contain moderate levels of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. The levels are lower than in fresh grapes because of losses in the drying process. These phytonutrients are antioxidants more powerful than vitamin C by 15 to 40 times. They are anti-inflammatory and prevent and repair free-radical damage. In contrast, raisins contain no vitamin C.
As with grapes, raisins are also rich in resveratrol, which is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
A question commonly asked is: are raisins, sultanas and currants sulphured or not. The answer is ‘no’, in Australia, no sulphur is used in the drying process. Sulphur is used with dried stone fruits, but not in drying grapes.
The grapes are harvested in late summer and early autumn. Individual bunches are picked and laid out on drying racks in the sun, or fruit-laden canes are cut and left in place on the trellises to dry. Either way, the grapes dry in the sun. To expedite drying, the grapes are first sprayed with an emulsion of refined vegetable oil and potassium carbonate. This alters the natural wax layer on the skin of the grapes and allows more rapid drying. The hot, dry summer air does the rest, except that some growers finish off the process using drying tunnels – the racks are enclosed in plastic sheets through which hot air is circulated or the grapes are finish dried in bin dehydrators.
Raisins sold as ‘natural’ have not been sprayed with the potassium carbonate emulsion, take longer to dry and turn darker in colour.
At a local processing company, each grower’s delivery of dried grapes is carefully checked to ensure that they meet rigorous quality standards. During packing, just two drops of a preserving chemical are added to each 12 kilogram box that then goes to market.
Most raisins, sultanas and currants would almost meet organic standards. This is because the only pesticides that are usually required are copper and sulphur treatments for downy and powdery mildew. In the uncommon case of caterpillar infestation, the usual choice is Bt, a bacterial biological control.
These are a newer variety of Black Muscat grapes, which are late maturing and dark in colour with a seed. They are dried in a way that retains the true Muscat flavour.
These are smaller than raisins, and can be light or dark in colour, depending on conditions during the drying process.
Nutrient content is very similar to raisins. Any small differences would be individual variation due to variety of grape, growing conditions, drying, etc. Sugar content is typically 73%, potassium is 910 mg, calcium is 56 mg and magnesium is 37 mg. Iron at 2.0 mg is about half that in raisins. Vitamin C is absent, presumably because it decays with long storage – but there is very little in fresh grapes anyway.
Currants (‘Zante currants’ in the United States) are dried small, seedless grapes of the variety, Zante or Black Corinth. Zante currants are not true currants and are not related to black, red or white currants, which are berries of the genus Ribes and grow on a bush rather than a vine.
Zante currants are slightly less sweet than raisins or sultanas, having a sugar content of around 63%. Other minerals and vitamins are similar to sultanas, except for much higher calcium at 87 mg. Like raisins, they contain modest levels of anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and resveratrol.
These are the true currants and are available in black, red and white varieties. They are loaded with vitamin C, one source stating 155 – 215 mg per 100 gm or around four times that of oranges. Their content of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins – responsible for their dark colour – is almost double that of the super-food blueberries, making this dried fruit powerful protection against free radicals and strong support for the immune system.
Other minerals and vitamins are at modest levels.
Blackcurrants are anti-Inflammatory, powerfully antioxidant and preventive against cancer and tend to reduce the effects of arthritis.
These true blackcurrants are used in blackcurrant-and-apple juice and in the brand, Ribena, for which the berries are grown in the UK.
This sweet treat is not overpoweringly sweet like dates. At typically 53% sugar, figs at GI 60 are much lower than dates.
At 14% fibre, dried figs have more fibre than any other fruit and are helpful at preventing constipation. Figs have been known for centuries to provide a natural laxative effect. This is due to the presence of mucin, a carbohydrate-protein combination that lubricates the intestines.
Dried figs have a similar claim for their calcium and magnesium contents. At 200 mg calcium per 100 gm fruit and 73 mg magnesium, these values are higher by a long way than in any other fruit, making dried figs solidly alkali-forming. Potassium is abundant at 780 mg, but not so with iron which at 1.4 mg is lower than in other dried fruits. There are useful levels of manganese, copper and silicon. Once again, there is no vitamin C.
Prunes are dried plums, usually the d’Agen variety, with most coming from California. This fruit is well known for its natural laxative properties, but less recognised are its powerful antioxidant properties.
The laxative effect is due to the fibre content (8%) plus a substantial content of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol which is a mild stimulant to the colon. Prunes can provide great benefit for people suffering constipation, with its associated risks of haemorrhoids and bowel cancer.
Much of the antioxidant power of prunes can be attributed to high levels of hydroxycinnamic acids (phenolic compounds), which are highly effective at scavenging free radicals. Although plums are rich in anthocyanins, prunes have much less, or even none, because the anthocyanins degrade rapidly during the drying process and more rapidly with higher temperatures.
Compared to dates and raisins, for example, prunes contain much less sugar at around 40%, giving them a medium-to-low GI rating of around 35, which is very beneficial.
At good levels, but not huge, are potassium (700 mg), magnesium (42 mg) and calcium (52 mg). There is also some copper and boron.
Dried Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines
Dried apricots are ‘famous’ for their potassium content, which, at around 1,500 mg, is far higher than in any other fruit. The bright orange and yellow colours of fully ripe apricots reflect their rich content of carotenoids, the particular ones being beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. The last two protect the eyes against macular degeneration.
With a sugar content of 40%, similar to prunes, the GI would be medium-to-low. Fibre is a generous 9%.
Besides potassium, there are high levels of other minerals – calcium is 67 mg, magnesium 57 mg, iron 3.1 mg and zinc 0.8 mg. There is a lot of vitamin B3.
Dried peaches and nectarines are broadly similar to dried apricots, except that minerals and vitamins are not quite as rich.
These three fruits have sulphur added during drying to preserve their lighter colours. This sulphur – in the form of sulphur dioxide (labelled ‘E220’ when used as a food additive) – is better avoided and can be a serious problem for sufferers of asthma. Dried apricots, peaches and nectarines should be free of sulphur if they are labelled ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘unsulphured’. This is easily determined by the colour – if they are dark like dates, they are unsulphured, the reason being that the sulphur prevents oxidation at the surface of the fruit.
Fresh cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice are ‘famous’ for their ability to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). Recent research has shown that this is due to the unusual structure of their proanthocyanidins, which act as a barrier to prevent bacteria latching onto the urinary tract lining. No other fruit is as effective as cranberries. Consuming approximately 300 ml of cranberry juice daily is believed to be sufficient to achieve these benefits.
Cranberries have recently been found to have substantial anti-cancer properties due to high contents of proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins and other powerful antioxidants. Some of these trigger the programmed cell death of cancer cells. Cancers that can be helped are breast, colon, lung and prostate. It is the anthocyanins that give cranberries their robust red colour. Although the antioxidants are richest in the fresh fruit – giving a high ORAC rating of 9,580 – some remain in the dried cranberries, which could still have a good rating.
Cardiovascular disease and certain stomach ulcers can also benefit from cranberries.
Dried cranberries contain 25% sugar, much less than the other dried fruits, and they have a strong acidity which can overwhelm their natural sweetness. For this reason, cranberries are usually sweetened with refined sugar; however, some brands use organic apple juice concentrate, which is much preferable.
This sweet treat is a potassium feast with almost as much as dried apricots. Depending on the degree of drying, the level could be up to 1,490 mg. Similarly, magnesium can be up to 10 mg depending on drying conditions. Sugar content is typically around 50 – 60% and fibre 6 – 10%.
Banana chips are different from the pure dried bananas, as they may be deep fried. Be aware that even though banana chips are frequently labeled “dried”, the vast majority are deep fried, usually in coconut or palm oil, so they have added fat. They are no doubt considerably less wholesome than pure dried bananas.
Other minerals and vitamins in dried bananas are at modest levels. Nevertheless, a properly dried banana is a treat for banana lovers.
Honey is a very concentrated food, typically 82% sugar and the remainder mainly water. Its energy level is 310 kcal per 100 gm, but you wouldn’t eat 100 gm is a single day – that is a lot!
There is no fibre, just a trace of protein and small but significant amounts of minerals. Vitamins B and C are absent. The small quantities of minerals are: potassium 62 mg, calcium 8 mg, magnesium 3 mg, zinc 2.6 mg and iron 0.2 mg. Considering honey comes from the nectar of flowers, these levels are surprisingly low.
When honey is heated for filtering, it’s very substantial enzyme content is likely to be completely destroyed by the heat, and its life-force is also destroyed. When buying honey, look for ‘raw’, ‘unheated’ or ‘unfiltered’ honey. Raw honey is slightly alkali-forming, whereas heated honey is slightly acid-forming.
A caution with honey is that it is totally unsuitable for newborn babies and infants under about 12 months. Being antiseptic, it can cause havoc to the newly developing gut bacteria, so it should be given only to infants over 12 months of age.
Honey is much preferable to refined sugar. Both honey and white sugar contain the simple sugars, glucose and fructose. In white sugar they are combined to form sucrose, whereas in honey they exist separately and require no digestion. The life force and mineral and enzyme content of honey give it a capacity to promote healing – as it tends to do with a skin ulcer, for example, which white sugar won’t do. Another plus for honey is that it contains antioxidants.
All honeys have antibacterial properties due to bodily moisture causing the release of the antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide. This is effective against bacteria without damaging tissue.
A remarkably beneficial kind of honey is Manuka honey, which comes from the New Zealand manuka bush or tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium). True manuka honey is unique to New Zealand.
Manuka honey is a much stronger antibacterial than ordinary honey. The hydrogen peroxide is easily destroyed by heat, sunlight and fluid, so is broken down in the body. But in manuka honey, another compound, called methylglyoxal, provides extra antibacterial activity and does not break down. Methylglyoxal reacts synergistically with other compounds in the honey to be powerfully antibacterial, and this is referred to as the Unique Manuka Factor or UMF.
Not only is the UMF property very stable to heat and bodily fluids, but bacteria do not develop resistance to it, as is inevitable with conventional antibiotics. This applies even with superbugs such as the flesh-eating bacteria. Further, the UMF can reach deep-seated infections, which hydrogen peroxide cannot. Whereas antibiotics have side effects, this special honey has none.
The UMF property has been found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria including Helicobacter pylori (causes stomach ulcers), Staphylococcus aureus (‘golden staph’) and Escherichia coli (common cause of infected wounds), MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Streptococcus pyogenes (causes sore throats). MRSA is a serious problem for hospitals all over the world.
For a manuka honey to be therapeutically effective, it must have a rating of UMF 10 or more. The higher the UMF rating, the higher the antibacterial activity.
Besides serious infections, manuka honey can also be used for the treatment of wounds, cuts, burns, ulcers, yeast infections, insect bites, various skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, and fungal infections ranging from ringworm to athlete’s foot. Researchers say that they haven’t found any infectious organisms that manuka honey doesn’t work on.
Agave nectar is a low-calorie, low-GI sweetener that tastes like honey, but is even sweeter, and has a slight caramel overtone.
Extraction and conversion of starch to sugar is done with or without chemicals. One brand in Australia that uses no chemicals and is organic is Loving Earth
This sweetener is typically 70% fructose, 10% glucose and 10% inulin (a complex fructose), although these proportions can vary considerably. It is high in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Agave nectar can be used to sweeten any type of food or beverage. In cooking or baking, just substitute one-quarter cup of nectar for every one cup of refined sugar in a recipe.
There could be some concern about the health effects of this amount of fructose. Like all sweeteners, agave nectar should be consumed in moderation.
Maple syrup is a close-to-natural sweetener, being the concentrated sap of the maple tree – it takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup, hence it ain’t cheap!
Maple syrup has an exciting sweetness with a unique flavour. It contains broadly similar calories to honey at 330 kcal per 100 ml, but more minerals. Sugar content is typically 65% and water is 35%. There are modest levels of minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Surprisingly, there are no vitamins.
The maple trees that produce syrup are found only in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec and the US states of Vermont and New York.
Containers of maple syrup should be kept in the refrigerator once opened. If any mould appears on the surface, the entire contents may be contaminated.
Pancakes topped with maple syrup is a classic dessert, but be sure to make the pancakes wholemeal or buckwheat.
Beware of imitation maple syrup, which is mainly water, refined sugar and chemical additives. An Australian-owned brand of pure maple syrup is ‘Queen’, located in Alderley, Qld.
Apple and Pear Juice Concentrates
These are simply the concentrated juices of their respective fruits with a similar balance of nutrients to the original fruit minus the fibre and any vitamins affected by the evaporation process. They are very wholesome sweeteners, with a natural balance of minerals and vitamins. People with diabetes may be able to use them.
‘Rice syrup’ or ‘brown rice syrup’ is made by using enzymes (from dried barley sprouts) to break down the starches in cooked rice to simpler carbohydrates. The liquid is strained off and concentrated by heat until the desired consistency is obtained.
The syrup has a smooth, delicate sweetness and buttery flavour. Its carbohydrate is approximately 50% soluble complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose and 3% glucose. Because brown rice is abundant in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, manganese and zinc, the syrup contains these nutrients and is a reasonably well balanced food. It has a low GI, does not cause blood sugar surges.
Brown rice syrup is reasonably mild and wholesome, and suitable for sweetening a variety of foods, including baked dishes and desserts.
Rice syrup can also be made from white rice, in which case the syrup will be much lower in nutrients than brown rice syrup, except for carbohydrate which is much the same. The GI is still significantly lower than for white sugar.
Barley is soaked in water and allowed to germinate (sprout) so that the starch is converted to the sugar, maltose. This is then dried and filtered to produce malt, which is used as the basis of beer making. Maltose, or ‘malt sugar’, is simply two molecules of glucose bonded together.
The malt extract used in food is made by soaking malt in water, boiling to sterilise, and then heating to 40°C under vacuum to concentrate the liquid. This is liquid malt extract, consisting typically of 80% solids and 20% water. The sugar content is mainly maltose. Spray drying produces powdered malt extract which is typically 95% solids and 5% water.
Because the original barley has not been refined, malt extract contains the ingredients of the whole barley, except for some insoluble minerals lost with the husk and some vitamins adversely affected by heat. Consequently, malt extract is to some degree a balanced food.
Sugar cane is juiced and dehydrated to produce Rapadura sugar. It is unrefined and so retains the full spectrum of the minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients present in sugarcane. All that is missing are the water, fibre and any nutrients destroyed during dehydration. Organic Rapadura is available, which avoids the problem of pesticide contamination.
Whereas white sugar is devoid of any nutrients other than sucrose, Rapadura sugar contains the molasses and is naturally sweeter than white sugar. It contains high levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and chromium and modest amounts of B-vitamins.
As a result of these nutrients, Rapadura is lower GI than white sugar.
If a recipe calls for a crystalline sugar to be used, this is the best of the bunch.
Black or Dark Brown Sugar, Demerara
This is white sugar with some of the molasses added back, so it does contain some minerals and B-vitamins. Unfortunately, molasses is likely to contain some of the pesticides from growing the sugarcane, unless it is organic.
Demerara is a name that can refer either to refined sugar with molasses added or to evaporated cane juice. In both cases, it contains some degree of balance of nutrients and has a subtle molasses flavour. It has relatively coarse crystals. If the crystals are very fine, it is called muscovado
Glycaemic index is just a little better than for white sugar.
This is the dehydrated and crystallised nectar of the flowers of the coconut palm. It has many of the same nutrients as Rapadura and offers similar benefits. Palm sugar contains potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamins C and some B’s. Its GI is a little lower than for cane sugar.
The sweetness of palm sugar is also similar to Rapadura, except that its flavour is more like mild caramel rather than molasses.
When white sugar crystals are removed from concentrated sugarcane juice, the difference is molasses. In other words, molasses contains all the many hundreds of nutrients and phytochemicals that are in sugarcane, except the fibre, sucrose and water. Consequently, it is loaded with good nutrition. Here is one analysis:
sugar 55%, other carbs 20%, water 23%, potassium 2,500 gm per 100 gm, calcium 860 mg, magnesium 215 mg, zinc 1.0 mg, iron 18, manganese 2.6 mg, copper 2.0 mg and selenium 18 micrograms. B-vitamin levels are low.
Blackstrap molasses is a thick, dark, strongly flavoured molasses.
The one big negative with this food is that the herbicide and insecticide residues normally present in sugarcane are concentrated during the production of molasses. Fortunately, organic molasses is readily available from brands that include Melrose and Spiral Foods.
In summary, molasses is absolutely loaded with minerals, but needs to be organic to avoid possibly high pesticide residues.
Also known as ‘grape sugar’ or ‘dextrose’, this sugar is found in grapes, some other fruits and honey. The end result of human digestion of most of the sugars and starches in our foods is glucose, so it is the sugar in our bloodstreams. Consuming it in place of white sugar has no nutritional benefits because pure glucose is devoid of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients, as is white sugar, hence glucose syrup is virtually a junk food. Further, it is very high GI.
Although fructose – or ‘fruit sugar’ – is one of the natural sugars in fruit and is fine in ‘natural’ quantities, we are not designed to take in the large quantities that are in processed foods.
Fructose is being added to soft drinks, ‘sugar-free’ jams and some other processed foods. When food manufacturers add white sugar to our foods, they are indirectly adding fructose because sucrose digests to yield glucose and fructose.
As explained in the Winter 2011 issue of this magazine, fructose does three things in the liver that are particularly bad – it promotes uric acid production (and therefore gout), it initiates fat production in the liver, and it initiates an enzyme called junk one, which stops the insulin receptors in the liver from working, causing insulin levels all over the body to rise. This renders useless a protective mechanism in the brain that tells our bodies when to stop eating and when to exercise more.
By adding fructose or white sugar to processed foods, food manufacturers are unwittingly fuelling the obesity epidemic.
Although fine in moderate quantities – as in fruit – fructose in excessive amounts becomes harmful.
This is a late stage in the refining of white sugar, and is very close nutritionally to white sugar. It is about 96% sucrose and 4% water with insignificant traces of minerals and vitamins. Raw sugar is so close to white that it can be considered to have virtually the same gross deficiency of nutrients.
White sugar is around 99.9% pure sugar in the form of sucrose, and therefore the ‘purest’ food on Earth and the most unbalanced nutritionally. Nowhere in nature does sugar exist in a pure form without the accompanying minerals and vitamins that enable the sugar to be properly metabolised in the body.
Because refining has removed all the minerals and vitamins that are necessary for ‘burning’ the sugar and neutralising its acidic residues, white sugar is often appropriately labelled ‘empty calories’. The body can only metabolise it by dipping into its reserves of vitamins and minerals. But if a person consumes a lot of refined carbohydrates, there may not be any reserves.
Although small quantities of refined sugar are probably harmless enough, average refined sugar consumption in Australia in 2010 was around 130 – 160 grams per person per day. This is equivalent to the amount of sugar contained in over a kilogram of apples, which would be very filling. Yet this amount of white sugar is consumed in addition to a lot of other carbohydrate-rich foods along with fat and protein.
This amount of pure sucrose yields, on digestion, unnaturally large quantities of glucose and fructose. A very recent discovery – as mentioned under ‘Fructose’ above – is that unnaturally large amounts of fructose create problems with appetite mechanism, obesity, fat deposition in the liver and gout.
White sugar is used extensively in processed foods and is a major concern for obesity, hypoglycaemia, diabetes, dental caries and other conditions. Some years ago, the Professor of Nutrition of London University, John Yudkin, wrote a book extolling the non-virtues of refined sugar – he titled it Sweet and Dangerous.