The body turns food into energy by processing the sugars and nutrients in the food itself. But how does that work exactly, and why are some foods healthier than others? Why are carbohydrates deemed “bad” in most diets, and how can we change what we eat to reflect a healthier lifestyle? Read on to learn more:

The Process

Turning food into energy is a complex process that requires many steps and different chemical interactions to succeed. The first step of this process occurs in the stomach, where our stomach acid breaks down food into smaller pieces-- sugars, starches, and carbohydrates. These break down further into a base sugar, called glucose. The stomach lining and small intestine then absorb glucose and release it into the bloodstream.

 

Glucose enters the bloodstream and provides energy for our cells after we eat, but the long breaks between mealtimes would cause our bodies to shut down without proper fuel. Thus, the body regulates blood sugar through a chemical called insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and controls how much glucose cells are allowed to absorb. Excess glucose is then stored for later. Since people with diabetes have difficulty producing insulin, they must watch their blood sugar levels more closely.

The Two Main Types of Sugar

In most diets, there are two main types of sugars used: natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars occur in nature and can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Added sugars, however, do not occur in nature. They are instead added to foods during preparation, like sweeteners in juices or candy.

Starches and Carbohydrates

Sugars can be quite complex and might be made up of several parts altogether. Starches and carbohydrates are two kinds of complex sugar that can occur in nature. Neither is necessarily bad for digestion, but some carbohydrates may be more difficult for our bodies to break down than others. Complex carbohydrates, for example, take much longer to digest. They can be found in most enriched flour products, white rice, and white pasta.

Is One Kind of Sugar Worse Than Others?

It is much harder for our bodies to process added sugars and complex carbohydrates than naturally occurring sugars, which is why most health experts recommend eating them in moderation. However, all sugar is good sugar when you need food. Blood sugar crashes can be quite dangerous, and to prevent them, it is necessary to eat regularly. To balance out your diet and make healthier choices, it is always best to speak with your doctor for information on how you can improve your diet as a whole.

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